Communicating with a Person with Dementia
Communication is a common problem with dementia. The person may have trouble
making oneself understood. The person may not be able to figure what others are
saying, or to interpret visual cues. These problems are often hard for everyone.
Here are some common problems.
ξ Has trouble finding words.
ξ Forgets things.
ξ Is able to read, but not understand.
ξ Is able to read, but not retain.
ξ Is able to read, but not follow written instructions.
ξ Is unable to read.
ξ Is able to understand in person, but not on the telephone.
ξ Is not able to focus on tasks.
What You Can Do
Keep things simple. You might want to try to these ideas.
ξ Correct any hearing or vision problems.
ξ Reduce background noise.
ξ Speak slowly and clearly.
ξ Use simple words and short one-step commands.
ξ Try written cues in the early stage of the disease.
ξ Maintain eye contact when talking or listening.
ξ Remain calm. Tone of voice is very important.
ξ Allow enough time for a response.
ξ Offer support.
ξ Help with word finding unless that causes more stress for the person.
ξ Suggest one thing at a time.
ξ Repeat the same question if there has been no response.
ξ Do not argue.
ξ Try again later.
ξ Increase light.
ξ Sit facing each other.
ξ Touch an area of the body, and then ask questions about it.
ξ Don’t try to use logical argument.
ξ Do ‘go with the flow’.
As verbal communication declines, non-verbal cues become more important. When
this happens, you will want to
ξ Pay attention to feelings. Feelings are important when words have less meaning.
ξ Use touching, smiles, and helpful gestures.
ξ Offer support if the same question is asked over and over. Respond to any
The Alzheimer’s Association is a great source of information. You can contact
them at 1-800-272-3900 or www.alz.org.
Another good resource is the Alzheimer’s disease Education Resource Center. You
can contact them at 1-800-438-4380 or www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers.
Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of WI is another great resource. You can contact
them at 1-888-308-6251 or www.alzwisc.org
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©9/2015 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5265.