Ten Tips for Communicating with a Person with Dementia

Published on Family Caregiver Alliance (https://caregiver.org)

Caregiver's Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors

Caring for a loved one with dementia poses many challenges for families and caregivers. People with dementia from conditions such as Alzheimer's and related diseases have a progressive brain disorder that makes it more and more difficult for them to remember things, think clearly, communicate with others, or take care of themselves. In addition, dementia can cause mood swings and even change a person's personality and behavior. This Fact Sheet provides some practical strategies for dealing with the troubling behavior problems and communication difficulties often encountered when caring for a person with dementia.

Ten Tips for Communicating with a Person with Dementia

We aren't born knowing how to communicate with a person with dementia—but we can learn. Improving your communication skills will help make caregiving less stressful and will likely improve the quality of your relationship with your loved one. Good communication skills will also enhance your ability to handle the difficult behavior you may encounter as you care for a person with a dementing illness.

  1. Set a positive mood for interaction. Your attitude and body language communicate your feelings and thoughts stronger than your words. Set a positive mood by speaking to your loved one in a pleasant and respectful manner. Use facial expressions, tone of voice and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection. 
  2. Get the person's attention. Limit distractions and noise—turn off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings. Before speaking, make sure you have her attention; address her by name, identify yourself by name and relation, and use non-verbal cues and touch to help keep her focused. If she is seated, get down to her level and maintain eye contact.
  3. State your message clearly. Use simple words and sentences. Speak slowly, distinctly and in a reassuring tone. Refrain from raising your voice higher or louder; instead, pitch your voice lower. If she doesn't understand the first time, use the same wording to repeat your message or question. If she still doesn't understand, wait a few minutes and rephrase the question. Use the names of people and places instead of pronouns or abbreviations.
  4.  Ask simple, answerable questions. Ask one question at a time; those with yes or no answers work best. Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices. For example, ask, "Would you like to wear your white shirt or your blue shirt?" Better still, show her the choices—visual prompts and cues also help clarify your question and can guide her response.
  5. Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Be patient in waiting for your loved one's reply. If she is struggling for an answer, it's okay to suggest words. Watch for nonverbal cues and body language, and respond appropriately. Always strive to listen for the meaning and feelings that underlie the words.
  6. Break down activities into a series of steps. This makes many tasks much more manageable. You can encourage your loved one to do what he can, gently remind him of steps he tends to forget, and assist with steps he's no longer able to accomplish on his own. Using visual cues, such as showing him with your hand where to place the dinner plate, can be very helpful.
  7. When the going gets tough, distract and redirect. When your loved one becomes upset, try changing the subject or the environment. For example, ask him for help or suggest going for a walk. It is important to connect with the person on a feeling level, before you redirect. You might say,"/ see you're feeling sad—I'm sorry you're upset. Let's go get something to eat."
  8. Respond with affection and reassurance. People with dementia often feel confused, anxious and unsure of themselves. Further, they often get reality confused and may recall things that never really occurred. Avoid trying to convince them they are wrong. Stay focused on the feelings they are demonstrating (which are real) and respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort, support and reassurance. Sometimes holding hands, touching, hugging and praise will get the person to respond when all else fails.
  9. Remember the good old days. Remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. Many people with dementia may not remember what happened 45 minutes ago, but they can clearly recall their lives 45 years earlier. Therefore, avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, such as asking the person what they had for lunch. Instead, try asking general questions about the person's distant past—this information is more likely to be retained.
  10. Maintain your sense of humor. Use humor whenever possible, though not at the person's expense. People with dementia tend to retain their social skills and are usually delighted to laugh along with you.

Easter Party 2015

The Suffield by the River Easter Party is Back!!!

For everyone that is interested in participating and enjoying this year's festivities, the Party is for children ten (10) years of age and younger on Saturday, March 28th from 1:30-2:30.

The fun starts at 1:30 with Face Painting, Egg Coloring, and pictures with the Easter Bunny!!!

Be ready for the Egg Hunt at 2:15…

Have all your friends, family, children, and grand children join in the fun!!!

Please fill out the form below NO LATER than Tuesday, March 24th. 

Thank you and we hope to see you all there :)

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Easter Dinner RSVP 2015

Dear Residents and Family Members,

Suffield by the River will have a traditional Easter dinner on Sunday, April 5th, with only one seating at 2:00 P.M.  Please fill out the form at the bottom of the page by Wednesday March 25th if you or any guests will or will not be joining us for Easter dinner.  The guest charge is $24.00 per person, and the menu is listed below:

Soup: Maple Butternut Squash Soup, French Dinner Rolls

Salad: Spring Mixed Greens with White Balsamic Vinaigrette

Choice of Entree: Baked Ham, Bacon-Wrapped Scallops, or Vegetable Lasagna

Starch:Garlic Mashed Potatoes 

Vegetable: Julienne Vegetables

Dessert: Carrot Cake

We hope to see you all there and have a wonderful Easter :)

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Blizzard 2015 Post #2

Welp, if a blizzard is a snowstorm wherein there are 35+ MPH winds then yes folks, we have ourselves a blizzard. However, no need to worry at SBTR about your loved ones; as we mentioned last night, all essential personnel are on site and everything is running as smoothly as it could.

We appreciate your concern during this time and we will keep updating as necessary.

Stay warm :)

Blizzard 2014 Post #1

Hello Everybody :)

We hope you have all the supplies you need to brave our first, and hopefully last, blizzard of 2015. In case you were wondering about your loved ones, everything is running smoothly here at SBTR: the heat is cooking, the kitchen is… well… cooking, and all essential employees (nursing, kitchen, maintenance) are and will be in. 

Please be patient if schedules are a tiny bit off. We thank you and hope everybody is bundled up enjoying this ol' fashioned blizzard. We will update here as needed.


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