How Can You Connect and Communicate with Your Loved One with Dementia

Share this content

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias gradually affect every aspect of a person’s life. At first, maybe someone has problems keeping up the house or balancing the checkbook. As the disease progresses, they might increasingly struggle with their day-to-day routine.

“As things progress even further, you’re going to see increased problems with communication,” says Carrie Wilson, director of the Reflections memory care program at the Ivy at Ellington.

“Your loved one isn’t understanding what you’re saying, or what your loved one is saying just doesn’t make sense. In the later stage, that ability to communicate can be lost completely.”

Communicating with a person with dementia requires patience, understanding, and good listening skills. Wilson offers strategies to help both you and your loved one with dementia communicate and connect.

Give Them Time to Respond

In the early stage of dementia disease, your loved one will still be able to participate in conversations. However, they might be easily overwhelmed by excessive stimulation or have difficulty finding the right word.

“We live in a fast-paced world,” Wilson says. “You say something, and I say something right back. One of the hardest things for family members to learn is that they need to allow time for their loved one to process what they’ve said. When you allow someone with dementia to process, you don’t have to overly repeat yourself. But you have to take a deep breath and relax and allow that extra time for your loved one to understand.”

Give the person time to respond. Don’t interrupt unless help is requested.

Avoid Criticizing or Correcting

As the disease progresses, the person with dementia will have greater difficulty communicating and will require more direct care. They may repeat themselves, call things by the wrong name, or forget important dates or events.

“They may think you’re the brother instead of the son,” Wilson says. “Don’t necessarily correct them. The correction brings on embarrassment and frustration. That’s hard for anyone. Who wants to constantly be told you’re wrong?”

“Live in their world if they get confused,” she says. “Living in their world to give them the best moments — instead of correcting every inaccurate statement —  can make a huge positive aspect in the person’s life with dementia. And it can make your life more enjoyable, too.”

Wilson acknowledges that this can be a big hurdle to get over, especially if your mom is always referring to you as her sister or if your dad doesn’t remember that you’re his son. “That’s usually a really hard one because a lot of people take it so personally,” Wilson says. “The person with dementia usually knows you’re family — they just can’t place you. But that emotion is still there. Stay with that emotion. Hold onto that instead of what’s right and wrong with names, dates, places, or times.”

Be Patient and Go with the Flow

Don’t let frustration get the better of you, Wilson says.

“I see a lot of families struggling with reminding someone something over and over again: ‘Mom, I already told you,’” she says. “But in the mind of someone with dementia, they haven’t talked to you yet. Every time they ask is the first time. So take a deep breath. They’re not doing this to be annoying. It’s because it’s the first time to them because they can’t remember. You need to be able to deal with that and go with the flow. Answer that question seven times.”

Use Body Language and Visual Cues

As the disease advances, the person with dementia may rely on nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions or vocal sounds. So give visual cues, and demonstrate a task to encourage participation.

“Using body language and visual cues early on and keeping up with them is really important,” Wilson says. “When you’re asking someone to do something, demonstrate visually, too. Lift the glass to your lips. When you say, “Come sit down,” wave them forward and then pat the seat of the chair. You’re still using your verbal communication, but you’re also incorporating visual communication early on so it becomes part of the way you communicate.”

Use Touch as a Form of Communication 

When dementia is very advanced, nonverbal communication may be the only option available. Try using touch, sights, sounds, smells, and tastes as a form of communication.

“Go with the emotional connection,” Wilson says. “Sometimes just reassuring someone by sitting next to them, by putting a hand on their shoulder, by simply smiling — those can make a big difference. Being able to establish that calm, emotional connection and to just be content by their side is huge.”

There will be good days and bad days when caring for a loved one with dementia. Along the way, treat the person with dignity and respect. It’s OK if you don’t know what to say. Your presence and friendship are most important.

Did You Enjoy The Article? Get More Like This.

Receive relevant information, touching resident stories and helpful tips directly to your email inbox. All you need to do is subscribe to our VIP newsletter "Family Ties". It's FREE and you can unsubscribe anytime.

eNewsletter graphic
  • Browse by Topics

  • Recent Posts

  • Have More Questions?

    Deciding to help a loved one transition to a senior living option is not an easy decision. We can help you get the clarity, answers, and support needed to lessen your worries and take the next steps.

    Click the button below to let us know how we can help you further.


  • Note: Your Privacy is very important to us and your details are kept confidential.
    You can easily unsubscribe at any time.

    Instant Access to the Program Overview Brochure

    Get more details about our signature Memory Care program to determine how well it will fit your loved one’s situation. Simply fill out the fields below to get access to the PDF.
    Reflections Memory Care Brochure Cover


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Have you decided that assisted living is the best option for your elderly parent, and now are feeling overwhelmed on how to begin your search for the right community?

    This guide will go over what you need to know before you make a decision.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Are you considering assisted living for yourself or a loved one but are hesitant about the cost? Assisted living costs, services and amenities vary greatly among the last and most expensive communities, and costs are higher in some states than others.

    This guide will answer questions you may have about the costs of assisted living and recommend resources to help you pay for it.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Talking to your aging parent about moving to an assisted living community isn’t easy.

    Often, many adult children avoid bringing it up because it can be a sensitive topic.

    This guide will provide you with helpful tips and insight on how to have a productive conversation with your parent and siblings regarding your parent’s future.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Difficult behaviors in elderly adults are very common. They may be an expression of frustration your loved one feels or a symptom of early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

    This guide will provide you with skills and knowledge on how to handle difficult behaviors your aging parent may be experiencing.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Becoming a family caregiver can be a rewarding experience. It also has its challenges.

    There are many questions to answer before making the decision to take care of a loved one.

    This guide will provide answers to questions you may have on this topic.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Is your parent or loved one depressed, or just in a bad mood?

    What does medication and illness have to do with depression?

    How can you help? In this guide, you will be provided with answers to the difficult questions you may have about depression.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Has your aging parent recently lost interest in activities they used to enjoy? Have you noticed a change in their mood and behavior?

    This guide will provide you with resources and tools on how to identify depression, what are the common causes of depression, and how to promote mental health in your aging loved one.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Does your loved one need more support than what they are getting? Would they benefit from some assistance with daily activities?

    In this guide, you’ll find answers to the most common questions asked about assisted living.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Where do you start searching for assisted living or memory care communities?

    What qualities in a community should you look for? How do you know you made the right decision?


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Has your dad stopped getting together for lunches or outings with friends or visits with neighbors? Have you stopped enjoying time with your parents because you’re a caregiver?

    Choosing an assisted living community is a big decision. Learn how to find the right one for you and your loved one.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    No one ever plans to be sick or disabled, and disasters, man-made or natural, can happen at any time, anywhere.

    Yet older adults are among the most vulnerable during a crisis. That’s why it’s critical that seniors, and those who care for them, prepare for emergencies.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Moving to assisted living is a life-changing event.

    This guide provides tips and ideas on downsizing, what to pack and how to make the transition smooth for your senior parent.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    In this eBook, you’ll learn how to talk with family and friends about caregiving challenges, how to deal with a parent who is resistant to help, how to get more caregiving help from your siblings, and how to keep your job while caregiving.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Have you had to cut back your hours at work to care for your mom? Are you worried about administering medications or injections?

    Have you stopped getting together with friends, either because you don’t have the time or you’re too exhausted? Are you becoming the invisible second patient?


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    A Guide to the Most Common Family Caregiver Challenges Associated with Caring for an Aging Parent.

    You’ll learn about the true costs of being a family caregiver, common family conflicts that can occur when caring for parents, and some of the unexpected challenges of caregiving.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    In this guide, you’ll learn about the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, including the early symptoms of dementia; the seven stages of dementia and the symptoms that typically accompany each one; and the signs it’s time to start exploring your memory care options.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    In this guide, you’ll learn about the difference between assisted living and memory care, how health care professionals are trained in dementia care, common features of a memory care community, and questions you should ask when exploring your memory care options.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Navigating adult sibling relationships can be a challenge, but coming together for the sake of your parent is important.

    In this guide, you’ll learn about common sibling conflicts that arise when caring for parents, strategies for getting siblings on board, and where to turn to for help.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Assisted living can be a touchy subject. No matter how you approach it, your parent is likely to have objections to something.

    As you help them transition to a new stage of life, it helps to be prepared with answers to their questions and concerns.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    This checklist will help to make sure you are getting the most out of your visit to The Arbors.

    The list details what important questions to ask during your visit so you are able to make an enlightened choice and find the best assisted living community for your needs.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    If you’re unsure what Assisted Living looks like in real life, whether there is a difference with nursing homes or a desire to see how community life unfolds, then this guide is exactly what you need.

    A guide to discover the Care Team and a Typical Day in Assisted Living.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Have you decided that assisted living is the best option for your elderly parent, and now are feeling overwhelmed on how to begin your search for the right community?

    This guide will go over what you need to know before you make a decision.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Are you considering assisted living for yourself or a loved one but are hesitant about the cost? Assisted living costs, services and amenities vary greatly among the last and most expensive communities, and costs are higher in some states than others.

    This guide will answer questions you may have about the costs of assisted living and recommend resources to help you pay for it.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Talking to your aging parent about moving to an assisted living community isn’t easy.

    Often, many adult children avoid bringing it up because it can be a sensitive topic.

    This guide will provide you with helpful tips and insight on how to have a productive conversation with your parent and siblings regarding your parent’s future.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Difficult behaviors in elderly adults are very common. They may be an expression of frustration your loved one feels or a symptom of early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

    This guide will provide you with skills and knowledge on how to handle difficult behaviors your aging parent may be experiencing.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Becoming a family caregiver can be a rewarding experience. It also has its challenges.

    There are many questions to answer before making the decision to take care of a loved one.

    This guide will provide answers to questions you may have on this topic.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Is your parent or loved one depressed, or just in a bad mood?

    What does medication and illness have to do with depression?

    How can you help? In this guide, you will be provided with answers to the difficult questions you may have about depression.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Has your aging parent recently lost interest in activities they used to enjoy? Have you noticed a change in their mood and behavior?

    This guide will provide you with resources and tools on how to identify depression, what are the common causes of depression, and how to promote mental health in your aging loved one.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Does your loved one need more support than what they are getting? Would they benefit from some assistance with daily activities?

    In this guide, you’ll find answers to the most common questions asked about assisted living.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Where do you start searching for assisted living or memory care communities?

    What qualities in a community should you look for? How do you know you made the right decision?


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Has your dad stopped getting together for lunches or outings with friends or visits with neighbors? Have you stopped enjoying time with your parents because you’re a caregiver?

    Choosing an assisted living community is a big decision. Learn how to find the right one for you and your loved one.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    No one ever plans to be sick or disabled, and disasters, man-made or natural, can happen at any time, anywhere.

    Yet older adults are among the most vulnerable during a crisis. That’s why it’s critical that seniors, and those who care for them, prepare for emergencies.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Moving to assisted living is a life-changing event.

    This guide provides tips and ideas on downsizing, what to pack and how to make the transition smooth for your senior parent.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    In this eBook, you’ll learn how to talk with family and friends about caregiving challenges, how to deal with a parent who is resistant to help, how to get more caregiving help from your siblings, and how to keep your job while caregiving.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Have you had to cut back your hours at work to care for your mom? Are you worried about administering medications or injections?

    Have you stopped getting together with friends, either because you don’t have the time or you’re too exhausted? Are you becoming the invisible second patient?


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    In this guide, you’ll learn about the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, including the early symptoms of dementia; the seven stages of dementia and the symptoms that typically accompany each one; and the signs it’s time to start exploring your memory care options.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    In this guide, you’ll learn about the difference between assisted living and memory care, how health care professionals are trained in dementia care, common features of a memory care community, and questions you should ask when exploring your memory care options.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Navigating adult sibling relationships can be a challenge, but coming together for the sake of your parent is important.

    In this guide, you’ll learn about common sibling conflicts that arise when caring for parents, strategies for getting siblings on board, and where to turn to for help.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    Assisted living can be a touchy subject. No matter how you approach it, your parent is likely to have objections to something.

    As you help them transition to a new stage of life, it helps to be prepared with answers to their questions and concerns.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    A Guide to the Most Common Family Caregiver Challenges Associated with Caring for an Aging Parent.

    You’ll learn about the true costs of being a family caregiver, common family conflicts that can occur when caring for parents, and some of the unexpected challenges of caregiving.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    This checklist will help to make sure you are getting the most out of your visit to The Arbors.

    The list details what important questions to ask during your visit so you are able to make an enlightened choice and find the best assisted living community for your needs.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Guide


    If you’re unsure what Assisted Living looks like in real life, whether there is a difference with nursing homes or a desire to see how community life unfolds, then this guide is exactly what you need.

    A guide to discover the Care Team and a Typical Day in Assisted Living.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.

    Instant Access to Free Cost Comparison guide

    You’re probably wondering how much the different senior living options compare to your current situation.
    If you do, then this guide is exactly what you need.


    NOTE: Your privacy is important to us. We’ll never share your details nor spam your inbox.