Communicating with a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult and, at times, very frustrating. One of the hardest things about watching as a loved one’s cognitive skills decline is that communication becomes increasingly more difficult. Feeling like you have lost the connection you once had can also take a toll emotionally. Having a strategy for approaching conversations, especially on difficult or sensitive subjects, can help make things easier for both of you.
Eight tips to help you effectively communicate:

Avoid distractions. Try to find a quiet environment so that it is easier for them to focus.

Have realistic expectations. Dementia and Alzheimer’s progress with time; be aware that it will become increasingly difficult for them to understand others and to communicate in general. Remembering that everyone has good days and bad days can help keep things in perspective.

Refer to people by their names. Avoid using pronouns such as “he,” “she” and “they” during conversations. When greeting a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s use your first name. For example, “Hello Grandma, it’s me Jane,” is better than, “Hi, it’s me.”

Have patience. Give your loved one time to respond, including allowing them time to process what you said. Try not to let frustration get the better of you.

Speak naturally in a warm, calm tone of voice. Avoid “baby talk” or a condescending tone of voice.

Use nonverbal cues. Maintain eye contact and smile. Even if your loved one doesn’t understand everything you are saying to them, your calm demeanor will help put them at ease.

Let go of delusions or misstatements. You won’t be able to focus on what you wanted to discuss if you stop to correct statements that aren’t factual. Also, as they may have difficulty concentrating only introduce one topic of conversation.

Put yourself in their shoes. Keep in mind that if you are frustrated that they don’t seem to understand, they most likely are also frustrated when they aren’t able to communicate clearly.