Useful Dementia Communication Strategies

10 Tips For Best Communication With People Who Have Dementia

  • Always approach the person from the front – this allows the person with dementia to make use of all their senses
  • Position yourself at their eye level – by this gesture you indirectly show the person respect
  • Wait until the person looks up before talking – this allows the person the time needed to tune into you and to be ready to receive information from you
  • Lean towards the person when communicating – this builds trust and shows the person you are 100% there for them
  • Listen for the feelings and the needs behind the words – the person with dementia communicates at a deeper, symbolic and emotional level
  • Ask who? what? where? when? how? questions – these are all questions which help to validate the person’s experiences and thoughts
  • Never ask why? – this question is too abstract and will often make the person anxious, agitated, or maybe even angry
  • Avoid words such as: should, must, ought to, don’t and no – these words all belong to the language of the ‘parent’ talking down to the ‘child’ and will most likely create an angry, aggressive reaction
  • Never ask: do you remember? – it is amazing how much the person with dementia forgets when we ask: do you remember!
  • Repeat their key word if you don’t understand – simply repeat the key word with an upward, questioning inflection

Starting and ending a visit to people with Dementia

Starting a visit

  • Come with a sense of humour
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Tell him/her who you are. "Hello Dad, I'm Sue" rather than "Do you know who I am?"

During a visit

  • If happy, laugh together
  • If sad, acknowledge the feeling and move on
  • If lost, orientate them to who and where they are
  • If playful, play with them
  • If sleepy, they are probably content

Ending a visit

  • Develop an end of visit routine
  • Say good-bye at the door, like they used to at home
  • Ask staff to divert your loved one
  • Leave at a meal time, morning or afternoon tea time