Communicating with a Person with Dementia - Dementia Caregiver Web Support
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Communicating with a Person with Dementia

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male caregiver talking with elderly woman
As communication becomes harder for your loved one, paying attention to how you communicate is important. Talking to someone with dementia can be frustrating, but some strategies reviewed on this page can help you.

Before reading the content on this page, it may be beneficial to review the following video(s) from the Office of Rural Health (ORH).

Communication
Length: 04:34 (Link opens new window)
Both Margaret and Harold are having a hard time understanding each other. Margaret realizes she needs to change the way she talks to Harold.

ABC’s of Dementia Behavior: Scenario #2
Length: 11:42 (Link opens new window)
Teri applies the ABC Model to Frank’s behavior. This video displays excellent examples of how to communicate with a person with dementia.


Tips on Communicating with a Person with Dementia

  • As your loved one’s language skills decline, keep communication simple.
  • Before talking, make sure you have your loved one’s attention.
  • Communicate one idea or instruction at time.
  • Allow time for your loved one to process the information before repeating yourself.
  • Rephrase using more simple language if you feel your loved one has not understood.
  • The best place to communicate is in a quiet, peaceful environment.

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is very important.  Keep your tone of voice calm, maintain eye contact, and express yourself through touch and other affection if welcomed by your loved one.  You can use hand signals, pointing to the object, drawing the object, or writing the words to assist your loved one in understanding.  Using humor can also help communication.

Written Instructions

Some individuals with dementia respond well to written instructions.  Displaying schedules, calendars, and to-do lists may help your loved one to stay oriented. Limit choices when asking questions to your loved one.  Try to continue to honor your loved one’s preferences.  Using “do you want” questions can be helpful in determining what they would like.  


Dealing with Frustrations

If you become frustrated or angry, express your feelings directly by stating what you feel or what you need.  Talking with friends or a support group can be a good way to release these frustrations.  If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your feelings with others, it may help you to write down what is upsetting you and why.  Sometimes just getting feelings out can be beneficial.    

Remember!
Disagreeing with or correcting a person with dementia is usually ineffective and often makes them upset.  Redirecting the conversation to another topic or ignoring incorrect statements that are not important will reduce your anxiety and help you communicate more effectively.


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VA Resources

US Department of Veterans Affairs
VA values your commitment as a partner in our pledge to care for those who have "borne the battle." We have several support and service options designed with you in mind. The programs are available both in and out of your home to help you care for yourself and the Veteran you love.

Geriatrics and Extended Care Services (GEC) is committed to optimizing the health and well-being of Veterans with multiple chronic conditions, life-limiting illness, frailty or disability associated with chronic disease, agining or injury. This VA site reviews information on delirium, dementia and Alzheimer's care, decision making, home and community based services, and advance care planning, among many other important topics that may be important for you as a caregiver.

Veteran's Crisis Line Phone: 1-800-273-8255 (Veterans Press 1)

The VA does not endorse the following resources or guarantee that their information is 100% accurate.  However, you may be able to find some helpful information by visiting the following pages:

AlzOnline
Caregiver Support Online: Tips for Interacting with Persons with Mild Memory Loss


References: Information adapted from Alzheimer’s Association and Office of Rural Health
If you have any questions or concerns, contact us.