Communicating With A Dementia Patient

October 23, 2015

Over 5 million Americans are dealing with dementia in the U.S. For those living with the disease, it can be especially frightening as you begin to realize you can no longer remember things, see as clearly or taste the foods you once enjoyed. Communicating your feelings becomes a struggle as the disease progresses. Caregivers must understand the challenges that patients are dealing with and communicate in an effective way that will diffuse anxious situations and and bring comfort to them.


  1. Never Argue


Never argue, Ever! Drop your need to be right and go along with the patient. If they want to call their great uncle that is no longer living, try calling the uncle. Leave a message or just say you couldn’t get him on the phone. Trying to convince a patient that the uncle is no longer there will be confusing and distressing. This helps to preserve the client’s dignity and peace of mind.


2.  Redirect


It is important to not stay focused on whatever person or issue the patient may be expressing, whether it is calling an uncle or getting a haircut. Change the subject; ask about something the patient enjoys; offer some food or a snack. All of these are ways to redirect the patient so that the focus is taken off of the dead uncle. If they do not forget the issue, just check messages or try calling again and say you couldn’t get them on the phone.


3. Be Aware of Your Mood and Body Language


Try to look stress free and calm when you are visiting or taking care of a dementia patient. They pick-up on body language and will think something is wrong if you are stressed or anxious. The patient may assume they did something wrong unknowingly. Check yourself when you are visiting or in the same room as they are.


4. Strike the Phrase “Remember When” From Your Vocabulary


Do not bring up something that you talked about yesterday to the patient. If you agreed to go to dinner or on a walk the day before, do not expect the client to remember or understand. Just simply say that you are here to take them to dinner. Asking the patient if they remember when they clearly don’t could make them confused and embarrassed.


5. Offer Options and Ask Yes Or No Questions


Phrase questions in a simple manner and ask yes or no questions. There does not need to be a long drawn out explanation or narrative. Always try to limit choices and present no more than two options. Have them choose between two different outfits (blue or white shirt) or two different meals (spaghetti or tacos). Patients need to feel autonomous and in control. Offering choices gives them control.



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