Communicating Effectively with Persons with Dementia

Vicky Pitner   -  

Caregiving for an individual with cognitive challenges has its difficulties.  The brain’s ability to process and respond to information declines with a diagnosis such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s.  Below are some strategies that help improve communication with an individual facing memory decline.

  • Be patient, giving enough time for your loved one to respond in conversation.  An individual with cognitive challenges can take longer to put his/her thoughts together.
  • Replace the word “remember” with either “reminisce” or “recall.”  These words put less pressure on an individual who may feel ashamed when she/he is having trouble “remembering” things.
  • Be careful not to remind your loved one that you already told them something, instead just kindly repeat, thus saving the individual feelings of shame.
  • In an overly stimulating environment it can be overwhelming for someone with Dementia to engage in effective conversation.  When at a social gathering or out in public, try to find quiet spaces to take breaks, and communicate wants and/or needs with each other.
  • Try your best not to correct your loved one when they inform you that they did or did not do something; such as, eat lunch.  This will simply cause feelings of shame or sadness.   Instead, divert attention with an activity they love, tell them they will eat soon, or just make them a snack.
  • When asking your loved one questions, use clear and concise language, and only ask one question at a time.  More than this will be overwhelming.
  • Use positive and encouraging language.  This will help your loved one to feel successful and also help you as a caregiver to have a smoother day.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

If you, a friend, or family member living with memory loss would be interested in learning more about our Memory Café, Family and Friends Workshops, or other services we provide, please contact Vicky Pitner at