Communicating With Your Loved One Who Has Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias gradually diminish a person’s ability to communicate. Communication with a person with Alzheimer’s requires patience, understanding and good listening skills. The strategies below can help both you and the person with dementia understand each other better.

Helping your loved one communicate:

In addition to changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s, a number of physical conditions and medications can affect a person’s ability to communicate.

Changes in the ability to communicate are unique to each person with Alzheimer’s. In the early stages of dementia, the person’s communication may not seem very different or he or she might repeat stories or not be able to find a word. As the disease progresses, a caregiver may recognize other changes such as:

  • Using familiar words repeatedly
  • Inventing new words to describe familiar objects
  • Easily losing his or her train of thought
  • Reverting back to a native language
  • Having difficulty organizing words logically
  • Speaking less often

Helping the person with Alzheimer’s communicate

People with Alzheimer’s and other dementias have more difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions; they also have more trouble understanding others. Here are some ways to help the person with Alzheimer’s communicate:

    • Be patient and supportive.
      Let the person know you’re listening and trying to understand. Show the person that you care about what he or she is saying and be careful not to interrupt.


    • Avoid criticizing or correcting.
      Don’t tell the person what he or she is saying is incorrect. Instead, listen and try to find the meaning in what is being said. Repeat what was said if it helps to clarify the thought.


    • Avoid arguing.
      If the person says something you don’t agree with, let it be. Arguing usually only makes things worse — often heightening the level of agitation for the person with dementia.


    • Offer a guess.
      If the person uses the wrong word or cannot find a word, try guessing the right one. If you understand what the person means, you may not need to give the correct word. Be careful not to cause unnecessary frustration.


    • Encourage unspoken communication.
      If you don’t understand what is being said, ask the person to point or gesture.


  • Limit distractions.
    Find a place that’s quiet.The surroundings should support the person’s ability to focus on his or her thoughts.
  • Focus on feelings, not facts.
    Sometimes the emotions being expressed are more important than what is being said. Look for the feelings behind the words. At times, tone of voice and other actions may provide clues.

You can call Kemper House seven days a week for more information! (440) 508-4163