How to talk with someone living with dementia

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12 Apr 2016

There's a lot of advice out there about how to communicate effectively with people living with dementia. Amana Living Dementia Specialist Louise Jones gives her perspective here.

The information in articles offering advice on communication with someone living with dementia is often very similar. But they are always worth reading because the way they are stated may strike a different chord, depending on you and your situation.

In particular I like to see advice from the perspective of the person living with dementia. These often carry the most meaningful messages. Here's one I recommend from the US: How to talk to someone with Alzheimer's disease

For quick reference, I have devised the following 21 communication tips based on the personal experience of our residents and clients who live with dementia / memory loss:

  1. Speak with a smile, so I know that you care
  2. If you are tense, remember I feel your tension too
  3. A smile takes away tension and helps put me at ease
  4. Use language I understand – keep it simple, no jargon or slang
  5. Slow down your speech
  6. Keep it short and to the point, one idea at a time
  7. Let me take the time to think through what you said to me
  8. Let me set the pace of the conversation
  9. Let me be the leader in the conversation – give me charge of the conversation
  10. Make sure you have my attention
  11. Pause once you say your thoughts
  12. Pause so I can say my thoughts
  13. Give me time to find the words and to say my thoughts
  14. Take turns during a conversation
  15. Let me finish what I am trying to say – it takes a little longer, sometimes a lot longer
  16. Please repeat information if I ask
  17. Make sure I hear you, and ask if I understand what you have said
  18. Tone of voice – adjust it up or down; louder is NOT always better
  19. Face me when you talk – eye contact helps to get my complete attention
  20. Please, don’t interrupt me
  21. Please be patient! Don't give up on me! I really DO want to be a part of the conversation


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