In the early stages of dementia disease, the individual can still participate in meaningful conversations and engage in social interactions and activities. A  dementia patient experiences a gradual lessening of their ability to communicate. Losing track of communication can be one of the most frustrating and difficult problems for people with dementia, their families, and carers. As the illness progresses, they find it more and more challenging to express themselves clearly and understand what others say.

Detectable changes in communication

Every dementia patient has a unique way of expressing himself. By so doing, difficulties encountered in communicating their thought and feelings are very individual.

  • They may speak easily but not make sense
  • Writing and reading skills may also deteriorate
  • They may lose the standard social conventions of conversations and interrupt or ignore a speaker or fail to respond when spoken to
  • They may have difficulty expressing emotions appropriately
  • Difficulty in finding the right word – a related word might be given instead of one they cannot remember
  • They may only be able to grasp part of it of what you said or not be able to understand
hospice care
hospice care

Tips in Handling Communication with a Dementia patient

Be patient – Give them time to speak and wait for them to search their brains for the exact word they want to use. Try not to finish their sentences. Just listen, and do not let them feel embarrassed in case they lose the thread of what they say. Do not rush them into something because they cannot think or speak fast enough to let you know whether they agree. Give them time to utter a response so they know whether they want to do it.

Be mindful – When you want to talk to them, think of some way to do this without questions that can alarm the dementia patient or make them feel embarrassed. If they do not remember something special that happened recently, do not assume it was not exceptional for them too. Just give them a gentle prompt – we may be shortly blank.

Sometimes we do not remember – Do not try too hard to help them remember something that just happened. If it never registered, we will never be able to remember it.

Background noise is confusing – Avoid background noise as much as you can. For instance, If the TV is on, mute it first.

Many children can make it difficult – If children are underfoot, remember they will quickly get exhausted and find it very hard to concentrate on talking and listening

.Get earplugs – Consider purchasing and getting a person with dementia to wear earplugs for visits to shopping centers and other noisy places.

How to assist in communication

The Do’s

Body Gestures

It would be best to use hand gestures and facial expressions to understand yourself. Pointing and demonstrating can help. Holding their hands and touching them may help keep their attention and show that you care. An expression of tenderness and shared laughter can often communicate more than words.

in home senior assistance
in home senior assistance

Caring attitude

People withhold their feelings and emotions even though they may not understand what is said, so it is essential to permanently preserve their dignity and self-esteem. Be spontaneous and always allow time for a response. Where appropriate, use touch to keep the person’s attention and to communicate feelings of warmth and affection.

Manner of talking

  • Stay calm and talk gently.
  • Keep sentences short and straightforward, tackling one idea after the other.
  • Always allow time for what you have said to be assimilated.
  • It is important to use familiar names whenever you can, such as “Your niece Nicky.”
  • An appropriate entourage
  • Try to avoid competing noises such as TV, radio or smartphones.
  • It will be easier to follow what is said, especially if you stay in the person’s line of vision.
  • Perpetuate regular routines to help minimize confusion and assist in communicating.
  • It is less confusing if everyone uses the same approach. Repeating the message precisely the same way is vital for all the family and carers.

The Don’ts

  • Do not argue. It will only make the situation worse
  • Do not order the person around
  • Do not tell them what they cannot do. Instead, state what they can do
  • Do not be condescending. A snobby tone of voice can be picked up, even if the words are not understood
  • Do not ask a lot of direct questions that rely on a good memory
  • Please do not ignore them when talking with other people.


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