Talking to People with Dementia

Perhaps you know someone with dementia but find it challenging to communicate with them in a meaningful way. It’s crucial we keep talking to people with dementia; even if the person forgets the conversation, the emotions that they experienced will stay with them. 

Here are some top tips for talking to someone with dementia that can help facilitate effective and meaningful communication, fostering positive relationships:

  1. Be patient: People with dementia may have trouble expressing themselves so slow down and give them the chance to digest what is being said.
  2. Use simple language: Avoid using technical terms or complex language, and instead use simple and direct words and phrases.
  3. Make it personal: Using a person’s name can help establish a connection and create a sense of familiarity. Talk to them about the people and interests you know they have. Pictures and mementos can help with this.
  4. Make eye contact and smile: Making eye contact and smiling can help establish trust and show that you are attentive and interested in what the person has to say.
  5. Listen actively: Pay attention to the person’s words and non-verbal cues. If the person gets agitated, check to see if there may be a physical reason for this and take a step back.
  6. Avoid distractions: Try to minimise distractions, such as background noise or bright lights.
  7. Validate their emotions: People with dementia may have difficulty processing and expressing their emotions. 
  8. Avoid correcting them: People with dementia may have trouble remembering facts or details but correcting them can lead to frustration and confusion.
  9. Repeat information: If the person seems to be having trouble understanding or remembering information, try repeating it in a different way and use familiar names and cues.
  10. If the conversation doesn’t go too well, don’t be disheartened – try again another time.

Here’s a lovely poem that may help you to understand dementia from the perspective of someone suffering with the condition:

Perhaps we need a reminder that we don’t need to be afraid of ‘saying the wrong thing’ – here is a wonderful video of some children talking to people with dementia in their own straightforward way!

Kids Interview People with Dementia – from Alzheimer’s Society.

See many other useful videos on their Youtube channel HERE.

Further Information

For more in-depth guidance and understanding, here are some more resources:

An excellent booklet from Methodist Housing Association, written from the point of view of a person with dementia; very clear, concise and helpful.

What do you do when the person says things like’ I want to go home’, or ‘I need to go to work’, or asks for their Mum or Dad?

This booklet from Dementia UK helps you deal with these and other behaviours by understanding the reasons behind them and suggesting what to say.

This website has many short sections with advice on a wide range of topics.

Written for those at home with loved ones with dementia during the pandemic, this guide includes strategies, ideas and good tips for looking after yourself as the carer.

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