Communicating with Persons with Dementia
- Start a conversation in a positive way.
- Be on their level – eye to eye.
- Build trust by stating your name and why you are there: “Mrs. Jones, I am Linda. I’m here to play cards with you today.”
- Be clear.
- Don’t hurry: speak slowly and quietly and give them time to respond.
- Use short sentences – one at a time.
- Repeat and rephrase as necessary. “Shall we go for a walk?” “Would you like to go outside?”
- Use nouns instead of pronouns: “I am going to call Joan.”
- Avoid open-ended questions: “What do you want to eat?”
- Give choices, but not too many! “Would you like ice cream or Jell-O?”
- Don’t use clichés – they may take it literally: “Let’s hop into bed now.”
- Use commonly-understood motions: wave good-bye when saying it.
- Communicate positive emotions.
- Let them think they are helping you. “Will you help me with the
Valentine’s Day decorations? I would like that.”
- Be calm and quiet – touch gently.
- Use praise and humor – they can read your mood by actions, tone of voice etc. even when they can’t understand the words.
- Pay attention.
- Watch their body language to interpret their comfort level with touching, activity, etc.
- Listen to them – they may use the wrong words but know what they are
talking about, or may use several words to explain: “I need a thing for
- Let them show you or lead you to what they are talking about.
What to Do When a Person is Agitated
- Redirect attention.
- Downplay situation.
- Don’t push them.
- Let them stay in a familiar space.
- Stay at arm’s length.
- Keep door locked.