Senior woman with nurse

How Do You Talk to a Senior with Dementia?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that America will have 14 million seniors living with some form of dementia by the year 2060. Because it is a disease with no cure, dementia is especially frightening for seniors and their families. As the disease progresses, it can make everything from performing activities of daily living to simple communication with friends and family more difficult.

Families and loved ones of individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia often feel frustration with the difficulty in communication. While your senior loved one may understand what you are saying, he or she may not be able to respond or communicate back, which can cause misunderstandings. Some common struggles dementia patients experience when trying to communicate include:

  • Repeating words, questions or stories
  • Mixing unrelated phrases or ideas together
  • Describing an object rather than saying the name
  • Having difficulty finding the right word
  • Speaking less frequently
  • Losing a train of thought

So, how do you talk to a senior with dementia? If you are interested in improving your conversations with a loved one who suffers from dementia, there are ways to set up a conversation for success and to reduce stress on both sides.

Tips for Talking to Someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association is an excellent resource for family members of dementia patients. One of the things the Association encourages the most is for seniors with any form of dementia to remain social. For seniors living in communities, like Dixon Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, there are ample opportunities for engagement and social activities. No matter where your loved one lives, keeping in contact and encouraging your loved one to participate in social activities is a great way to help slow the progress of the disease.

In order to better communicate with your loved one as dementia progresses, the Alzheimer’s Association offers the following tips for talking to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia:

  • Try to understand what is being said based on context and offer suggestions if your loved one is struggling to find the right words.
  • Maintain eye contact while communicating and use your loved one’s name. It can help to hold hands while talking.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal clues and try to remain relaxed.
  • Use short, simple sentences.
  • Take breaks if anyone in the conversation becomes frustrated.
  • Be patient and eliminate distractions to help everyone involved to focus.
  • Avoid using minimizing phrases or speaking about your loved one as if he or she was not there; show respect and do not correct mistakes.

Communication will likely become more of a challenge as your loved one’s disease progresses. However, non-verbal communication – such as a touch – can be comforting and meaningful.

Things to Talk About with Dementia Patients

At Dixon Rehabilitation, one of the many advantages of the personalized care plans we offer is the ability to focus on activities that your loved one enjoys. When you know your loved one is taking part in social activities and fitness programs, it makes it easy to follow up with fun questions to ask seniors about their day and about their interests.

If you feel ready to have a conversation with your loved one, but aren’t sure where to begin, here are some ideas for things to talk about with dementia patients:

  • Talk about shared memories or experiences, such as a vacation from many years ago.
  • Ask questions about an item of importance to your loved one and encourage them to show it to you.
  • Reading together is a great way to find things to discuss.
  • Looking through photo albums can trigger memories and kick off a walk down memory lane.
  • Listening to familiar music or a favorite song can help your loved one feel comfortable.

Staying Safe and Social

Dixon Rehabilitation and Health Care Center approaches the care for our residents with a holistic, therapeutic approach. Our programs include:

  • Skilled Nursing Care
  • Memory Care
  • Tube Feeding
  • Social Services
  • Recreational Programs
  • Exercise Groups
  • Pain Management
  • Diabetes Management

Contact us today to learn more about our community and our services.