Effective Communication Strategies for Persons with Dementia

Early this spring we hosted an educational webinar on Effective Communication Strategies for Persons with Dementia. Maggie Cattell, Program Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Indiana Chapter, was our guest speaker. We learned that communication is more than just talking and listening – it is also about sending and receiving messages through attitude, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. As people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia progress in their journey and their ability to use words is lost, families need new ways to connect. 

Here are a few communication tips for those in all stages of the disease, as presented by Maggie:

  • Join the person’s reality to connect.  
  • Understand and accept what you can and cannot change. 
  • Remember that the person retains a sense of self despite the losses of the disease. 
  • Demonstrate respect and connect through feelings. 
  • Always treat the person as he or she is. 
  • Try to decode the person’s communications. 
  • Recognize the effects of your mood and actions. 
  • Try to understand the source of reactions.
  • Help meet the needs while soothing and calming the person

We also learned to communicate through our senses. This not only makes communicating a little easier but it also is an activity that can bring joy to you and your loved one.

  • Connect through touch. Feeling different fabrics or by giving a lotion hand massage. Visit with animals or brush the persons hair or stroke their back.
  • Connect through sight. Look at bright colored pictures or photo albums. Watch videos of animal’s nature or travel. Go outdoors or sit by an open window. Paint with watercolors or look at famous painting, favorite settings, or famous people from the past
  • Connect through sound. Listen to familiar music or recordings or nature farms, cities, or animals. Read books, poetry, scripture, or the newspaper. Let the person hear the gentle tone of your voice.
  • Connect through smell. Cook or bake something that smells good such as apple pie or chicken noodle soup. Use fragrant lotions or oils for hand massages. Use aroma therapy while reading a book or sitting by the window. 
  • Connect through taste. Enjoy a favorite food, home-baked goodies, popsicles, flavored drinks, or ice creams and puddings.

We would like to thank Maggie again for presenting such a great topic on communication and for educating us on how to effectively communicate with persons with Alzheimer’s or dementia. For more services and support from the Alzheimer’s Association please check out their website at alz.org or on the 24/7 hotline: 800-272-3900.