How to Communicate with a Loved One Living with Dementia

communication and careWatching a loved one struggle with dementia is extremely challenging and heartbreaking at times. It can pose many challenges along the way including mood swings, changes in personality, and the decline of memory, and decision-making skills. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability, sometimes severe enough to interfere with daily life. While dementia is troublesome, there are multiple ways to help your loved one by finding a unique way to communicate with them. When it comes to dealing with someone who has dementia it’s all about setting the tone, making them feel comfortable, and trying to remain positive. Here are some tips to communicate efficiently with someone who has dementia.

Include them

Nobody likes to be excluded in a conversation and just because your loved one is struggling with communication and memory issues doesn't mean you shouldn’t include them in conversations. Whether it’s a casual conversation between a group of friends, family, or even medical staff, try to make a point in including them. Even if the person struggling with dementia does not understand what you are saying, chances are they can still read body language and cues. Including everyone in the conversation decreases isolation, feeling undervalued, and poor mood.

Find the right spot

Too many distractions, such as loud background noises, large groups, and even poor lighting can overwhelm someone who is dealing with dementia and make conversations more difficult. Try to find a quiet place with minimal distractions, turn off background noises if possible, and allow yourself plenty of time to communicate and be patient with the individual. Here are some additional tips from the Alzheimer’s Society:

  • ✓ Speak clearly and calmly
  • ✓ Speak at a slower pace and allow time for your loved one to process what you are saying without interruption
  • ✓ Use short, simple sentences
  • ✓ Try to use a conversational tone rather than asking a lot of questions
  • ✓ Limit choices if you are asking questions
  • ✓ Rephrase rather than repeat. If your loved-one does not understand what you are saying, consider pointing to an object or even using gestures to get your point across.


Effective communication in any relationship is all about give-and-take, so listening is a key component. Even though the person who is going through dementia might not clearly make sense, it’s crucial to let them express their feelings and be there for them.

  • ♥ Listen and offer encouragement when needed.
  • ♥ Try not to dismiss the individual’s worry or concerns.
  • ♥ Allow the person ample time to respond as it might take longer for them to process what you are saying.
  • ♥ Resist the temptation to speak on their behalf, put words in their mouth, or interrupt.
  • ♥ If the person is having difficulty finding the right words, ask them to explain their point in a different way. Sometimes it’s only one word they are trying to get past.
  • ♥ Similar to using images in books to tell the story, try to let the person’s body language assist you in what they are trying to say.

Body language

As an individual continues to decline and communication falters with dementia, body language will only become a more effective tool to rely on. Learning the cues when it comes to not only their body language but how they read yours will be key.

  • ★ Make sure your body language and expressions convey what you want to say.
  • ★ A gentle reassurance in the form of hand-holding, or a pat on the back when appropriate can be of great comfort to someone who is confused.
  • ★ Try not to stand over a person (if they are in bed) to communicate with them. Instead, get down to their level and make eye contact.
  • ★ Sudden tense movements, negative facial expressions or negative body language may cause the person to become upset or distressed and can make communication even more difficult.

At Maple Manor Christian Home we know dealing with dementia can be a difficult road. Our mission is to provide outstanding care for residents. We describe our brand of care like this: Compassionate, Affectionate, Respectful and Enthusiastic. We strive to provide a homelike environment and to develop relationships with our residents and family members. Family and friends are always welcome and encouraged to visit frequently. Visit us online, email or call us today (812) 246-4866.


Hope is necessary

Fourth in the Affirmation Series

You may think of many more, but for this Blog series, our fourth and final Affirmation is: I have hope.

69 years apartLove

Are you a person with a hopeful, positive outlook? Which box would you check?

◻ sometimes ◻ usually ◻ never ◻ not very often

If you were limited to a bed or wheelchair, or if you had an uncaring roommate… or if you could not move without pain, how might that affect your outlook? When we feel we cannot control most details of our lives, feelings of hopelessness can creep in.

A loud TV or not being able to hear one— an aide who did not answer your call quickly— a nurse who did not seem to care about you— small hurts and problems mount up. Each slight seems to be directed at us personally.

When you visit with your loved one, you could ask where they fall on the Hope Scale. Perhaps their answer will shine a light on something you can do to help them.

An affirmation for your loved one and for all of us who feel neglected or under God’s frown is: I have hope.

I feel neglected but I still have hope. A better moment will come soon.

I feel frustrated but I do hope this day will shape up.

I feel ignored but I hope that my life will still be useful even though I cannot see how.

I feel hopeless but I do hope and I will keep hoping.

We cannot live without hope.

Photo credit: Jenny Erickson,

Reasonably Positive

Third in the Affirmation Series

A Third Affirmation: I am not a terrible person.


Most of us who are conscientious will at times condemn ourselves. We will scold ourselves mercilessly in our silent yet noisy thoughts.

Perhaps we realize we have hurt the feelings of someone we love; maybe our “thought life” has been terrible, and we know God hears all our thoughts. Each of us would have a unique confession but none should feel alone in the tendency to have a bad temper or attitude.

Turning over a new leaf can start with an answer back to the self-condemnation! Encourage your loved one to repeat after you: I am NOT a terrible person. I love God, I love my family and friends, and when I feel like I don’t really love them at all, I know that it is only a temporary failing. I will do better. I am old and I can still change many things in my life. I am not old in my heart.

Then, tell your loved one that he or she is a wonderful person.

Photo credit: Loretta Humble,