Communicating Effectively with Dementia Patients
Caregivers,  Dementia

Communicating Effectively with Dementia Patients

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Communicating Effectively with Dementia Patients

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease affect the ability of the patient to communicate. The changes are usually insignificant in early-stage dementia, but the ability to communicate declines with the progression of the disease.

Both patients and caregivers may find it difficult and frustrating to communicate as language skills deteriorate.

Here’s a look into how language is affected, common problems with communication, the importance of effective communication and different ways to communicate with your loved ones.

woman with dementia and daughter on couch having coffee and talking, communicating

Issues with Language in Dementia Patients

There are two major ways dementia can affect communication. The first is the way the patient interprets information and the second is the way the patient expresses themself.

Communication through the Stages of Dementia

Early stage dementia patients can carry on normal confversations but may have trouble finding a word, use the wrong word or have trouble resuming a conversation after an interruption. These things happen to all of us at one time or another.

However, dementia causes language problems to become more and more noticeable until problems that were initially minor inconveniences become more severe and difficult.

Learning new phrases, expressions, or slang becomes harder for people with dementia. They may begin confusing the meaning of words, using incorrect or inappropriate words instead.

It’s also difficult for dementia patients to hold more than one idea in their head at once, causing jumps in conversation from topic to topic, without coherent sentences.

Understanding what others are saying becomes more difficult. Besides not understanding certain words, rapid speech, high-pitched speech and complex speech all become hard to follow.

Loss of Communication Skills Through the Stages of Dementia

Patient displays some difficulty following conversations;
trouble finding the right words when speaking;
losing train of thought when speaking; repeating
oneself. Usually the patient is aware of the problems
which causes frustration in the patient.
Moderate or
Trouble following along with conversations; losing
train of thought when speaking; increased difficulty
finding words; inability to follow storylines in books, TV
shows, or movies; difficulty following directions; poor
recall when discussing recent events.
Severe or
Unable to follow anything other than simple
conversations and instructions; increased loss of
vocabulary, including names; tendency to ramble,
talk about nothing or babble.
Complete inability to speak or respond verbally;
difficulty or inability to understand when spoken to;
non-verbal communication only.

Effectively Communicating with a Dementia Patient

Effective communication becomes increasingly more important for both the caregiver and the patient as dementia progresses.

Conversing with the Dementia Patient

A few things that can be done to help the conversation along without causing embarrassment.

  • Speak slowly, with proper pronunciation and grammar to help the patient understand what is being said.
  • Focus on one idea or short story to avoid confusion.
  • To help with forgotten or mixed-up words gently make suggestions based upon the other parts of the conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask if they meant another word, but avoid over-correction.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Be supportive and reassuring
  • Be agreeable. Arguing doesn’t help anyone in theis situation.
  • BE PATIENT. A little more time may be all your loved one needs to get their response out.

Benefits of Communicating Effectively

Communication is crucial in ensuring that the person with dementia is safe and comfortable. Communicating effectively also provides the following benefits:

  • Improves understanding and cooperation
  • Builds trust
  • Strengthens the bond between you and your loved one
  • Tips you off to discomfort, pain, dental, or vision problems
  • Helps you to be a better caregiver
  • Reduces anxiety and confusion in your loved one with dementia
  • Helps you feel more successful as a caregiver
The main thing to remember when interacting with dementia patients is to be patient and kind. They can’t help what is happening, they aren’t doing it on purpose and they are probably just as frustrated as you are!

The main thing to remember when interacting with dementia patients is to be patient and kind. They can’t help what is happening, they aren’t doing it on purpose, and they are probably just as frustrated as you are! (Deal with Caregiver Guilt)

What are your tips for communication? Let me know in the comments!

I'm my mother's primary caregiver in her battle against Alzheimer's Disease. Join me on my journey to learn to earn an income online to allow me to continue caregiving and eventually live a location independent lifestyle.

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