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Communicating with people with dementia

Helpful tips and strategies ­for communicating effectively with people with dementia.

­­Communication and dementia: the challenges

Speaking, reading and writing connect us to other people and keep us informed about the world around us. Problems with communication can be isolating, confusing and distressing. Dementia can cause different issues with communication, including:

Barriers to good communication for people living with dementia can also be due to their surroundings, particularly if there is too much background noise or inadequate lighting. Being too hot, too cold, uncomfortable, hungry or thirsty may also cause problems.

Communication Styles

Other people’s discomfort or lack of skill at talking to people with dementia can also be a barrier, and certain ways of talking can make it hard for someone with dementia to follow or respond.

Communication and dementia: helpful hints and tips

Getting the environment right

Make sure there are no interruptions, that the room is well lit (ideally daylight), and that the person is comfortable.  Dementia can make some people sensitive to noise so, for example, music or a TV on in the background can interfere with the ability to communicate.

Phone calls      

Phone calls can be particularly challenging for people with dementia. The lack of any visual cues from the other speaker can make the conversation hard to follow, so more time and gentle prompting may be needed to enable them to respond and take part in the conversation.

Another challenge is presented by call handling systems where people have to go through various steps to reach the person they need to talk to. Organisations are encouraged to rethink and simplify these where possible.

Written communication

The image below presents information in a way which is very difficult to read (Don’t try to read it! The same information is presented in the image underneath.)

 
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