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Improving Communication with a Dementia Patient

Communicating effectively with a loved-one who has been diagnosed with Dementia poses a real challenge for all family members. The disease is a progressive brain disorder that, over time, diminishes a person's ability to think clearly, process information and communicate well with others. Dementia may also cause intense mood swings and personality changes. Learning how to better relate to the person with dementia and making adjustments in communication style to fit their limitations will greatly reduce stress levels and strengthen relationships.

The following are some strategies for enhancing communication with your loved-one:

  • Minimize distractions. Effective communication starts with getting the person's attention. Take steps to minimize noise or competing activity. For example, you may need to turn off the TV or close a door.

  • Set the proper mood. Make certain that your body language and facial expressions are consistent with your message. Set a relaxed tone by using a calm, pleasant voice. If appropriate, use physical touch for reassurance and to keep him/her focused.

  • Simplify your message. Use simple words and sentences. Do not include a great deal of detail or background information. Speak slowly and distinctly, over-annunciating, if necessary. Be prepared to repeat yourself several times, slowly and calmly if they don't comprehend the message at first.

  • Avoid "interrogations". Do not ask too many questions at once which could cause your loved one to become overwhelmed and shut down. Use questions with simple "yes" or "no" answers rather than open ended questions. If you are asking them to make a choice between multiple options, consider using visual prompts to facilitate. For example, if you are asking your mom to choose between two blouses, show the blouses to her to facilitate. Also, keep in mind that his or her short term memory may be significantly impaired. Asking questions such as, "what did you have for lunch" or "what time did you have physical therapy" will be difficult and frustrating for the dementia patient.

  • Use affection to offer reassurance. A person living with dementia may feel very confused, anxious, and self-conscious. He or she may believe certain events occurred when in fact, they did not. The feelings and fears associated with these imagined events are very real to the dementia patient Often, the best way to help your loved one cope with these feelings is to offer verbal and physical expressions of affection and reassurance. Avoid the temptation to openly dismiss the events as this could cause your loved one to become defensive or frustrated. Instead acknowledge their feelings and remain empathetic.

  • Use humor to keep the dialogue open. Dementia typically does not impair a person's ability to see the humor in a situation. Enjoy a good laugh together to keep the communication lines open.

It can be a real challenge both mentally and emotionally, to maintain effective communications with a dementia patient. Taking the time to better understand the challenges a dementia patient faces can enhance your relationship with a parent or loved one. Experimenting with different communication strategies can help you develop the tools needed to connect with your loved one. Ultimately, it's the connection that enables a caregiver to continue caring for the long haul.

Need more information on Dementia related topics? Explore our complete list of informative articles at

Consult Atlanta's most trusted source for quality Home Care assistance, Easy Living Services, Inc. We have supported families in their efforts to keep loved ones fulfilled since 1994. Call us to discuss your specific needs, 770-442-8664.

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