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communication strategies dementia

Communication Strategies for Dementia

There are strategies for how families can understand communication challenges and continue to connect with their loved ones, even in the later stages of dementia.

Dementia is progressive, so its symptoms worsen over time. As the stages of dementia progress, seniors find themselves facing new challenges, including loss of hearing, speaking, and other forms of communication.

Although there is currently no cure, here are ways to improve the quality of life and overall communication for those with dementia and their caregivers. 

Understanding the communication challenges of dementia

First, it helps to learn the communication challenges someone with dementia faces as the disease progresses.

Dementia can include memory, learning, understanding, speech, and language difficulties, as well as disorientation in time and space, and behavioral changes.

Communications challenges will vary from person to person but, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, can often include:

  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Using familiar words repeatedly
  • Describing familiar objects rather than calling them by name
  • Easily losing a train of thought
  • Difficulty organizing words logically
  • Reverting to speaking a native language
  • Speaking less often
  • Relying on gestures more than speaking

These challenges will likely increase as someone progresses through the seven stages of dementia, from almost no noticeable impairment to more severe cognitive decline.

Communication strategies to connect with your loved one

The key to communicating with your loved one is to be compassionate and patient, empathizing with the health challenges they’re facing.

Let’s learn more about five communication strategies you can use to help you communicate effectively with your loved one throughout their stages of dementia.

Be intentional

Be mindful about the situation you’re trying to communicate within. Are there distractions? Do you have your loved one’s full attention? Are you ready and able to actively engage in the conversation?

Use patience and compassion to openly approach and communicate with a loved one. Go into the conversation with a clear objective. Focus on one topic at a time to keep things as simple as possible for your loved one to comprehend.

Simplify conversation

Once you’re engaged in conversation, speak calmly and at a slower pace to give your loved one time to comprehend what you’re saying. Be casual and conversational but keep in mind that it helps to also use short and simple sentences. It might help to ask yes or no questions focused on one subject at a time.

When multiple people are involved in a conversation, include your loved one so that they feel valued as a part of the group.

Be sure to show them respect by avoiding talking down to them as if they were a child or talking about them as if they’re not there.

As they try to communicate, avoid correcting or criticizing what they’re saying. Let the inaccurate details go. If they’re hung up on something that isn’t true, such as thinking they have to do something they did in their past, think about the emotions behind it and how you can help to calm them, or even stimulate them to bring them back into the present. 

Rely on body language

Non-verbal communication will become more and more important as your loved one’s dementia progresses. Pay attention to and learn what their body language is expressing so that you can better meet their needs.

Focus on your own body language as well. Align what you’re saying with how you say it so that your message is as clear as possible.

Show your loved one that you respect their personal space, get on their level, and make eye contact to show that you’re fully engaged with them.

Be mindful of physical touch as well. When appropriate, holding their hand or putting an arm around a loved one is a welcomed and reassuring gesture.

Actively listen

Be encouraging as your loved one tries to express themselves. Don’t interrupt them to avoid breaking their train of thought. Be patient in waiting for their responses.

Pay attention to the emotions your loved one is expressing while they communicate, as you might not always understand the words they’re using. If they’re struggling to communicate, repeat back what you think they need and watch their reaction to confirm whether you’re right.

If they get hung up on expressing something, ask them to explain it in a different way or ask them to use simple gestures to clarify what they’re trying to communicate.

In paying attention to their emotions, be sure not to dismiss their feelings or worries. Instead, just be there to listen and let them express themselves, showing your support.

Show your support

When you aren’t sure what to say or how to communicate, know that your positive and open body language, as well as your loving presence, is a comfort to your loved one. Although it may be challenging to rely on communication methods other than language, it doesn’t mean that you and your loved one aren’t communicating. Your caring and friendly support speaks volumes to your loved one.

Dementia Care at The Kensington Falls Church

By utilizing state-of-the-art therapies, The Kensington Falls Church creates customized, individual service plans to help each resident achieve his or her personal needs and desires. Not only do we take into account the physical aspects of each individual’s health, but we also strive to care for their cognitive and spiritual health equally. 

Each resident deserves to live in a community that is best for them and their individual degree of memory loss. To ensure that our residents receive the most beneficial and appropriate care for their circumstances, we break our community into two different “neighborhoods,” which you can learn about here.

If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia and is experiencing memory loss, The Kensington Falls Church is here to help make a positive difference. Reach out to us today to learn more or schedule a virtual visit to see for yourself.


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