Communication Tips

Communication skills gradually decline as the dementia progresses. The impaired communication skills effect the ability to interact, connect and maintain positive relationships with those involved.

Here are a few tips on how to improve communication with someone who is living with  dementia:

Care partners must forget the word remember with the person who is living with dementia. Care partners must put aside feelings of anger and fear. They must try to understand what is happening to the person who is living with dementia.

  1. Understand that methods of communication may vary from day to day.
  2. Maintain a soft  tone of voice and smile while speaking.
  3. Break down tasks into simple steps
  4. Ask questions that require single word or yes/no responses; provide choices of two.
  5. Due to the impaired reasoning skills, do not try to reason or argue with your loved one.
  6. Maintain eye-contact and limit distractions when interacting.
  7. Respectfully, refer to people by their names and not pet names such as “sweetie”, ” baby”, ” honey”. etc.

 What is Perceived as a ” Bad Behavior” is actually a Form of Communication Due to Unmet Needs.

  1. When your loved one has difficult “behaviors”, he/she is trying to communicate.
  2. Challenging situations include: resistance to care, physical and verbal aggression/outbursts,  anxiety, confusion, depression, wandering.

Triggers for Challenging Responses  Include:

  1. Excessive stimulation-overwhelmed
  2. Medications
  3. Abrupt changes within environment
  4. Infections
  5. Dehydration
  6. Pain
  7. Depression
  8. Constipation
  9. Fatigue
  10. Hunger
  11. Discomfort
  12. Thirst

General Management to Reduce Difficult Situations

  1. Decrease distractions
  2. Remain calm
  3. Brief and simple one-step directions paired with visual cues
  4. Leave and then return once both of you are calm
  5. Re-direct conversation if possible
  6. Approach within their visual field starting at 6 feet, then slowly progress to person’s dominant side.
  7. Always make sure that your presence is known before approaching.
  8. Be a Detective-what did you say or do prior to the situation.
  9. Always give a visual cue first, then verbal and lastly, touch.


  1. Arguing
  2. Demanding
  3. Talking down to
  4. Asking questions that rely on memory
  5. Confrontations
  6. Touching without permission
  7. Loud voice
  8. Physical contact/Restraints
  9. Ridiculing
  10. Yelling

Most important to remember:

” They cannot change. they are doing the best they can. You must change your  approach, respond and not react.”