Communicating with people living with dementia

Communicating with a person living with dementia is sometimes challenging because s/he may have trouble finding the right words, may lose the thread of the conversation, and may have emotions s/he is unable to tell you about. 

It helps to have a personal connection, at eye level, with eye contact. Speak slowly and calmly. Involve your loved one in conversations about care. Use simple language, short sentences, clear statements. Be positive. “Let us go here” is better than “do not go there.” Be sensitive to his/her reality, avoid criticism or argument. If you are not sure what your loved one is trying to say, assist them with a guess, or a gesture. Non-verbal communication can help where words do not do the job. Visual cues, or smells, sounds or a touch can help you make the point. Sometimes a person can sing a comment better than he or she could find the words to say it. Be creative! And above all, be patient. Your loved one may be easily distracted, but with patience, respect, and persistence you will be able to communicate effectively.  And if you can find something the two of you can laugh about, the conversation may go more easily.