Talking to a senior with dementia

How to Talk to Someone With Dementia

If a loved one or family member close to you is suffering from dementia, it can be a frustrating and confusing experience for everyone. And over time, it’s likely to get worse as those symptoms settle in and their cognitive decline becomes more apparent. That’s because dementia and other degenerative diseases will progress, eventually making it hard to follow conversations and perform basic tasks such as cleaning, cooking and otherwise taking care of themselves.

At a certain point, your loved one may need specialized care or a facility that can help look out for their cognitive and medical well-being. Until then, you may not know what to say to someone with dementia or how to help someone with dementia remember, but there are some tricks that you can use to elicit better responses from your loved one.

Increase Your Interactions

If you’re struggling with how to talk to someone with dementia, especially if they’re a close family member or relative, you’re not alone. Many family members get frustrated when their loved one won’t communicate, but continuing to communicate is a crucial piece of helping them deal with their illness. While dementia may reduce their desire and ability to communicate, you’ll be able to help by upping your communications and encouraging them to interact.

If you can’t figure out what to say to someone with dementia, you may be able to fall back on non-verbal communication. Dementia patients may not understand what you’re saying or have difficulty deciphering your meaning, but that doesn’t mean you can’t smile, capture their attention by looking them in the eyes and hold their hand. These are cues that will allow the patient to understand that you care even if they can’t follow your words, and that can be a good place to start.

Tips for How to Talk to Someone With Dementia

When a loved one is still able to communicate but it’s apparent that there’s some kind of cognitive decline, keeping up that communication can be a benefit for their prognosis. Here are some tips that can help you figure out how to talk to someone with dementia.

For starters, it helps to speak slowly and clearly, using easy-to-understand words and short sentences. Additionally, it’s also a good idea to maintain eye contact during any communication so that your loved one knows that you’re actively engaged. Once a question has been asked or you’re done speaking, give them ample time to respond. Dementia can make it harder to formulate thoughts, so they might need extra time to think of and communicate a response.

When you’re not around, it’s also important for your loved one to communicate more with others, so putting them in situations where they have opportunities to communicate can be a good thing. It’s why many family members opt for some kind of senior day care setting that encourages more interactions and conversations in a given day. Aside from other community members, there will also be qualified staff on hand to help out and provide an extra level of care when needed.

If you’re finding it hard to talk to a parent with dementia, start by acknowledging what they have to say, and encouraging them to say more if they’ve drifted off topic or if a specific question hasn’t been answered. Resist the urge to make fun of their confusion or condition as that can cause them to withdraw even more. When confronted with complicated options, try to break it down into more manageable concepts and ideas that they can understand. If all else fails, try rephrasing questions to get to an acceptable answer.

Don’t Forget About Body Language

While thoughts of how to talk to someone with dementia may dominate your concerns, don’t forget about body language. What you don’t say can be as important as what you do say, and that means ensuring that your movement and facial expressions match your meaning and what you’re ultimately looking to convey. Indeed, when speech is difficult, it may be the case that your loved one is relying more on body language than what you’re saying.

In addition to using your words, it’s crucial to stay patient and calm. That can help your loved one better understand and communicate with you, and that can make for a more fulfilling and beneficial relationship. Pay special attention to your tone, too. Keep it positive and friendly, if possible, so that your loved one can focus on what you have to say, not how you’re saying it. After all, you don’t want them to shut down or disagree with you based on something other than what you’re saying.

If you have a chance to reach out and hold the person’s hand, that can help bring the both of you closer together. However, if you notice that your loved one is visibly uncomfortable, it may be best to establish more formal boundaries until you’re able to build up that trust again. Talking to someone with dementia requires patience and a kind heart, as well as active listening so that you can pick up on those important non-verbal messages, too.

If you’ve done all you can and a family member needs more support, consider The Moments senior living community. Our staff knows how to talk to someone with dementia, and our care is designed around the unique needs of every resident. Contact us or schedule a tour to get started.


Our resident specialist will give you a private tour of The Moments Memory Care Community and answer any questions you may have.

Safety Protocols

Our HVAC system was uniquely designed to deliver six complete air changes per hour which means clean air, safer air, throughout the building. Our resident rooms have individual fresh air and filtration above the windows, both designed to increase safety and sanitation levels.

Our normal protocol includes rigorous daily disinfecting of resident rooms and common areas. During every shift, staff disinfects doors, handrails and other common areas.

Meals have shifted from community gatherings to small group, socially distanced meals that are served in shifts, tables and chairs are sanitized after each seating.

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Anybody – staff, caregivers, residents, vendors – who enters The Moments will pass through the ENTRY where Far-UVC lighting will inactivate surface-level viruses and bacteria

Additionally, prior to each
shift staff:

  • Undergo a health
    screening, temperature
    check and contact risk
    evaluation surveys prior
    to entering the building
  • Are required to wear a
    facemask and goggles
    at all times
  • Constantly conducting
    thorough handwashing
    and hand sanitization
    during their shifts

Essential caregivers/visitors
are required to:


  • Undergo a health
    screening, temperature
    check and contact risk
    evaluation surveys prior
    to entering the building
  • Wear masks during
    their visit
Published On: November 23, 2021