Ten tips for speaking to somebody with Dementia

Dementia, elderly lady

Ten tips for speaking to somebody with Dementia

Did you know that 15th May –  21st May marks Dementia Action Week? In this blog, we’re sharing some tips on how to speak to somebody with dementia. 

Dementia results in a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills. A report in 2019 showed there were around 900,000 people with dementia in the UK. This is projected to rise to 1.6 million people by 2040. 209,600 people will develop dementia this year, that’s one every three minutes. It is estimated that 70 per cent of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems. It is estimated that 60 per cent of people who draw on support from homecare are people living with dementia. There are over 42,000 people under 65 with dementia in the UK. This is known as young-onset dementia.

Now more than ever, it’s important to keep communicating and it’s important to remain patient and try and offer reassurance.

Here are our top tips for speaking to somebody with dementia:

1. Set a positive mood for interaction. Your attitude and body language communicate your feelings and thoughts more strongly than your words do.
2. Get the person’s attention. Limit distractions and noise—turn off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings.
3. Speak slowly and clearly. Speak slowly, distinctly, and in a reassuring tone. Don’t rush and allow yourself plenty of time, so your loved one feels calmer.
4. Use simple words and sentences. You should state your message clearly by using short, clear sentences. You could also try asking simple, answerable questions. Ask one question at a time; those with yes or no answers tend to work best.
5. Be patient. Especially when waiting for your loved one’s reply.
6. Respond with affection and reassurance. People with dementia often feel confused, anxious, and unsure of themselves. You can respond with praise and reassurance.
7. If things become difficult, use distraction. If your loved one becomes upset or agitated, try changing the subject.
8. Remembering the past. Remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. Many people with dementia may not remember what happened 45 minutes ago, but they may recall their lives 45 years earlier. Therefore, avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, such as asking the person what they had for lunch. Instead, try asking 1 or 2 questions about the person’s distant past—this information is more likely to be retained.
9. Try music or singing – Singing is a great way to communicate. If you are struggling to hold a simple conversation, try singing your loved one’s favourite song. Even if they don’t remember they will enjoy the music (even if you feel a bit silly)! Playing music and listening together can also be soothing.
10. Maintain your sense of humour – smiling is infectious, no matter what you’re talking about. Humour can help to bring you closer together, and may relieve the pressure.

We’d also like to share this great article from The Alzheimer’s society which provides more detail around how to communicate with somebody who has dementia, including what not to say:

If you have any questions or any concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.