Alzheimer's & Dementia

How to Talk to a Loved One or Patient with Dementia

Watching a senior loved one with dementia struggle to communicate or have a conversation can be a difficult thing. This can also be a frustrating time for your senior themselves, since unfortunately, dementia affects their ability to think, focus, understand, and respond during conversations. However, there are some great ways you can better communicate with them. The key to good conversations with your senior often lies in the preparation. Read through our advice below and learn how you can set your senior up for success.


Be Prepared

The first action you take should be getting prepared for the talk. If you seem nervous or anxious to talk to them, it is likely that they will sense it and feel the need to be nervous too. You will want to be in a calm and relaxed headspace, and your attitude should be pleasant. Your actions, likewise, should be sincere and gentle. Remind yourself to be patient and spend all the time necessary with your senior.

Another great way to prepare yourself to talk to your loved one or patient with dementia, is by educating yourself beforehand. You can try searching for helpful tips and ideas online. There are so many places out there where you can learn about dementia care. Or if you’d rather talk to someone whose been in this situation before, you can find a family member, friend, or someone in your community who has experience on this subject, and can share their advice and experience with you. Whatever it is you choose to do, it is important to prepare yourself with knowledge.

How to Talk to Someone with Dementia

Set the Environment

Successful conversation for your senior may also be dependent on their environment. You want the environment and setting to be calm as well, so eliminate any distractions in the area like background noise, music or bold patterns.

If you want your conversation to be private, you may want to separate yourself from others in the area by going into another room. Voices can be distracting, and if something is said that you don’t want to be overheard by others in the area, it can feel embarrassing for you or for the senior with dementia. Things like this can be anxiety inducing and distract from the conversation. Stay in a well-lit, comfortable space to make it easier for your senior to focus on you and keep their attention.


Speak Slowly and Clearly

It is always good to remember that your senior is likely struggling to both comprehend and focus on the conversation. So, when you speak, make sure you are slow, clear, and doing your best to enunciate your words. Sit close to them so you don’t have to shout or speak loudly. Give your senior time to process each sentence before changing topics, and use specific names when referring to people, places, and things. Rephrasing questions rather than repeating them can help your senior understand better the second time around. And if they do not answer a question right away, that is ok, the silence can be calming and helpful for them and you. It gives them time to process while encouraging a calm situation.

Also remember that when speaking to them, you should be as patient as possible, and speak in a way that is not condescending or child-like. It can be easy to fall into the habit of treating those with dementia like a helpless child, even though they may be older than you. However, we must remember that it is the disease that is impairing their ability to communicate, and they are still adults who deserve your respect. Though dementia patients may need more time to think and respond, they should still feel that you are talking to them as an adult and as an equal.


Be Aware of Your Non-Verbal Actions

Non-verbal actions and your body language are just as essential for success and your physical speech. If you find yourself tapping your foot, shaking your leg, looking at your watch, or having a look of annoyance on your face, not only can it be distracting, but it sends a signal that you are anxious, uninterested or growing impatient. If you want your loved one or patient with dementia to feel more comfortable, try to be conscious of your non-verbal actions.

You can also use these small, non-verbal actions to your benefit to make your senior loved ones feel more at ease. You can do things like making gentle eye contact, placing a hand on their shoulder, or giving them a friendly smile. These can help your senior feel relaxed and help them respond better.


Home Care Assistance of Dayton recognizes and understands the challenges that can accompany caring for a senior loved one with dementia. That’s why our expert caregivers are standing by 24/7 to assist you and your family. Please schedule a consultation for more information about our dementia care services or how to better communicate with your senior.

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