Communicating With People With Dementia

By | August 17, 2016

Communicating With People With DementiaOne of the biggest obstacles that caregivers tend to face with Alzheimer’s patients is communication.

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the communication skills of a person will gradually decline. It becomes increasingly difficult for that individual to communicate in the way they once did. Eventually, the patient will have more difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions.

Some of the communication problems expected at various stages of the disease are:

  1. Difficulty finding the right words
  2. Repeating the same words over and over again
  3. Speaking less often
  4. Relying on gestures rather than speaking
  5. Difficulty expressing thoughts


Tips For Communicating With Early Stage Alzheimer’s Patients:

  1. Speak directly to the person if you want to know how he or she is doing
  2. Take time to listen how the person is feeling or how he or she is thinking
  3. Give the person time to respond
  4. Allow them to finish their sentence
  5. Respect seniors and do not talk to them as if they are children


It is important to engage them in meaningful conversation and social activities. Do not exclude the person from conversations with others. Explore which method of communication is most comfortable for the person. Do not sound agitated or impatient when communicating with them. They may feel the tone and refuse to communicate with you further.

Friendship and support are important to the person living with Alzheimer’s as they are often seen to be confused. Remember that your loved one is not acting this way on purpose. Do not take it personally. Use patience and understanding to help him or her feel safe and secure.


Tips For Communicating With a Mid To Later Stage Alzheimer’s Patients:

  1. Move your head to be at the same level as their head
  2. Approach them face to face and make eye contact
  3. Speak slowly and speak in short sentences
  4. Repeat your sentence if necessary
  5. Speak calmly and ask one question at a time
  6. Avoid criticising or correcting them
  7. Do not argue with them
  8. Tell them what you are going to do before doing it


It is important to remember that communication is a two way process. Just as your loved one has had to change the way they communicate due to their illness, the caregiver will also need to change the way that he or she communicate, due to their illness.

Always treat them with dignity and respect. Sometimes their emotions being expressed are more importantly than what is being said. Always look for the feelings behind their words or sounds.

Despite the challenges, effective communication can make a great deal of difference in your quality of life and your loved one’s quality of life as well.


Communication – The Heart Of All Approaches To Dementia

Communication And The Care Of People With Dementia

I recommend this book Communication and the Care of People with Dementia by John Killick for care givers and early stages of Dementia patients.

This book argues that communication is at the heart of all approaches to dementia care, and is an in-depth exploration of ways of establishing and developing communication with people with dementia. It examines both the nature of dementia as a condition and the subjective experience of those affected.

The authors consider in detail how communication between people with dementia and those who care for them changes, and how it can be maintained and enhanced. They include a significant amount of material quoted from people with dementia, and suggest ways of interpreting their words and actions.

We learn about what it might be like to have dementia, and what sort of help is needed by people in this situation. Throughout the book the authors address the ethical issues and the implications for practice.

“The combination of creativity and critical analysis which the joint authors as poet and psychologist bring to this book is especially productive…The interweaving of substantial practice examples based on conversations with people with dementia give persuasive authority to the careful exposition and detailed analysis. The book is much more than an exhortation to carers about how they should communicate. It challenges them to understand themselves and shows how they might use themselves to engage with people with dementia.” – Faith Gibson, Emeritus Professor of Social Work

Communication and the Care of People with Dementia is a key resource for students and professionals in health and social care work, including those in such fields as social work, nursing, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physiotherapy, clinical psychology, geriatric medicine, and the management of services.



“Communication and the Care of People with Dementia published last year has been hailed as ‘essential reading’ for psychologists, old-age psychiatrists, social workers and managers of dementia specialist services. – A A Gill (The Sunday Times Magazine 2003-11-11)

“This is a timely, deeply challenging but ultimately encouraging publication. Person-centred dementia care, pioneered by Tom Kitwood, Malcolm Goldsmith and others, stands in need of this comprehensive theoretical and practical presentation based upon considerable experience. John Killick’s nine-year involvement as writer in residence with Westminster Health Care is ably complemented by Kate Allan’s psychological expertise and commitment to giving a voice to people with dementia in the development of services…The outcome is a heady, wholesome and above all intensely humane mix, enlivened by numerous verbatim accounts of John’s conversations with individual persons with dementia which are interpreted with great sensitivity…we should be profoundly grateful for this book which can aptly described as a work of love.” – Generations Review (Generations Review 2003-10-30)

“Communication and the Care of People with Dementia is an essential read for all existing and future health and social care professionals who may come into contact with people who have dementia.” – Dementia: International Journal of Social Research & Practice (Dementia: The Int Jnl of Social Res & Practice 2003-10-28)

If you have any feedback or thoughts to share, please feel free to write your  comments below.

10 thoughts on “Communicating With People With Dementia

  1. Travis Smithers

    Excellent article for bringing up some of the issues dealing with dementia. This problem is something that I’m finding is becoming more common for people these days than compared to the number of cases in the past.

    Having patience and following all the suggestions you mentioned will help with dealing with those going through the process of dementia.

    1. wesley Post author


      Thank you for stopping by. Communication with a person with Alzheimer’s requires patience, understanding and good listening skills. The person may need extra time to process what you said. It is therefore important that the caregiver show patience to wait for their response.


  2. artware

    One of the great informative article on dementia. Your article will sure help people understand the symptoms of dementia and how to interact with people affected by it. As you rightly said, the important factor is communication and listening to the affected person. What is the age category where a person is most susceptible to dementia?

    1. wesley Post author


      Dementia is more common in people over the age of 65, but it can also affect younger people. Early onset of the disease can begin as young as the 40s, or 50s. However, with treatment and early diagnosis, you can slow down the progression of the disease and maintain normal mental function. These treatments may include medications, cognitive training, and therapy.


  3. Linda

    Excellent article on communication and dementia. My mom had dementia and as she progressed it became harder and harder to understand what she wanted or was trying to say. At first it was very easy for me to get frustrated, but as we learned together, patience and slowing down became the key. Mom still had a lot to express in her daily life, right up to the end. As a caregiver, sometimes the best way was to enter into their world. I wish I had read this book while mom was still with me. Thank you for sharing this very important topic.

    1. wesley Post author

      Hi Linda

      Thank you for sharing your personal experience of communicating with a dementia patient. I totally agree with you that the best way to understand your loved ones is to enter into their world. Patience is the key.


  4. NemiraB

    Hello, thank you for the comprehensive article regarding dementia. I think that family members would like to read your tips mentioned here if they have loved one with dementia.
    I wonder about differences between Alzheimer and dementia. It is the same ilness?
    Patience and willingness to help is important trait for caregivers.
    I heard that patients can ask the same question again and again. They feel embarrassed but they ask again.
    It is not easy for everybody who give care to these forgetful people.
    Thanks for educating article.
    All the best, Nemira.

    1. wesley Post author

      Hi Nemira

      Dementia is a set of symptoms that can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. These symptoms occur when the brain is damaged by certain diseases. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of demenita. Dementia patients tends to repeat a question over and over again as they easily forgets what they have just said. It is important that a care giver understands a dementia patient’s memory problem. They will then be in a better position to communicate and take care of them.

      Thank you for reading my article. You can read more on the difference between dementia and alzheimer here.


      1. NemiraB

        Thank you for the explanation because the knowledge never will get secondhand when was used. It is good to know. All the best, Nemira.

        1. wesley Post author

          Hi Hemira

          You are most welcome. Glad you found value in reading the blog post.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *