How to Speak to a Senior Loved One Living with Dementia

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Speaking to a Senior Living with Dementia in Columbus, OH

As your senior loved one’s dementia-related condition advances, it may become increasingly difficult to talk with him or her. For this reason, understanding how to effectively communicate with your parent is important. In fact, employing effective communication techniques can allow you, other family members, and friends to enjoy precious time with your loved one in a way that’s productive and mutually beneficial. Here are some tips to keep in mind that can help you talk with a loved one with dementia.

Avoid Distractions

Older adults with dementia tend to become easily distracted by background noises. Even situations when multiple people are part of the conversation can be confusing at times. Make it easier for your loved one to remain mentally focused by minimizing distractions as much as possible and not carrying on multiple conversations in the same room when someone is trying to talk to him or her.

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Speak Clearly and Naturally

While it’s important to speak clearly when talking to a loved one with dementia, there’s no need to default to “baby talk” or other unintentional forms of condescension. Treat your loved one with respect as you have conversations with him or her by:

  • Using a warm, loving tone
  • Talking normally and not in an overly simplistic way
  • Refraining from shouting in an attempt to increase your loved one’s understanding if he or she appears to be confused, as this only creates more confusion and frustration
  •  Pausing long enough to give your loved one time to fully take in what you’re saying

Refer to People By Their Names

If your loved one is in an advanced stage of dementia, get into the habit of using names instead of pronouns when addressing or referring to other family members and friends. For example: “Good morning, Mom. It’s me, Julie. Did your friend Martha call you back yet?” is better than “Hi! It’s me. Did your friend call back yet?”

Stick to One Topic at a Time

It can be difficult for people with dementia to follow complex conversations during which people are discussing multiple topics. Avoid creating confusion by focusing on one topic at a time instead of sporadically jumping around.

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Look for and Use Nonverbal Cues

Get a better idea of how well your loved one comprehends what you’re saying by watching his or her eyes and other facial expressions. This approach should make it easier for you to know when to slow down or say something a bit more clearly to increase comprehension. Also, when dementia gets more advanced, nonverbal communication involving visual cues may become your loved one’s main form of communication. Nonverbal cues that can be helpful include:

  • Making direct eye contact
  • Smiling to make it clear you’re trying to convey something positive
  • Gently touching your loved one’s shoulder or face

Don’t Constantly Correct Your Loved One

You’ll be more likely to have pleasant conversations with your loved one if you avoid the temptation to correct inaccurate statements. However, it’s okay to politely let him or her know if you’re having difficulty trying to figure out what he or she is trying to say. If you do figure it out, let your loved one know you understand so he or she can move on. If you don’t, reassure him or her that it’s all right and talk about something else.

Be Patient and Actively Listen

If you’re a natural multitasker, it can take some practice to actively listen to what your loved one is saying. But if you do, it’ll be easier to know how to engage with him or her and express meaningful thoughts. Lastly, be patient when talking to your loved one, and realize people with dementia-related conditions tend to have their good days and bad days when it comes to being able to clearly communicate.

If you’re looking for reliable dementia care, Columbus Home Care Assistance offers high-quality at-home care for seniors who are managing the challenges of cognitive decline. We offer a revolutionary program called the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), which uses mentally stimulating activities to boost cognitive health in the elderly. CTM has proven to help seniors with dementia regain a sense of pride and accomplishment and learn how to engage with others in an enjoyable way. Reach out to us at Home Care Assistance if you need compassionate, professional care for your loved one. Call one of our dedicated Care Managers today at (614) 481-8888 to learn about the high quality of our in-home dementia care services.


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