Dementia Decoded: Overcoming the Challenges of Communicating with Your Loved One

Watching a loved one suffer with Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia can be a painful experience for all those involved. See someone that you’ve know for so long slowly becoming someone else entirely is not only difficult, but it can also be draining for those who take care of them.

There are ways that you and others can help each other get through those trying times. By understanding how to connect and communicate with your loved one, you can make life a little easier for everyone. Just know what you are up against and do your best to maintain a positive attitude. Here are a few things you should remember when taking care of someone with dementia and help keep the lines of communication open.

Dementia Decoded: Overcoming the Challenges of Communicating with Your Loved One

Accept That the Person Has Changed

The first and most important thing you can do is to accept the fact that the person you once knew will never come back. While there is promising research for dementia treatment, the fact of the matter is that they are still years down the road and, while they may slow or even stop the progression of the disease, they may not reverse the effects.

Once you accept that this is your new reality, then everything else will become much easier. Rather than spending your time and energy fighting the fact, you can focus on your loved one to make their lives more comfortable. This will help you maintain a positive attitude that can help you get through tough days.

This will also help you better communicate with your loved one. You will know that this is your “new normal” and that will allow you to be more patient and accommodating when it comes to interacting with your loved one, and patience and accommodation are two of the most important things when dealing with dementia.

Get Professional Help 

Sometimes, dementia just progresses too far, or too rapidly, for you to handle without becoming overwhelmed. If this is the case, then it’s best for both you and your loved one that you seek professional help.

This doesn’t mean that you need to place them in a home — although, it may. Sometimes, you can receive part-time help so you can still work and then take care of them on the weekends. You can find many of the answers you are looking for at, which can help you figure the best course of action for you and your loved one.

Keys to Communication

There are a few key points that you should always keep in mind when trying to communicate with someone who suffers from dementia.

First, always try to remain calm. They may already be uneasy and confused, yelling at them will only make the situation worse. Instead, always speak clearly and slowly, with an easy tone that expresses patience. Avoid “baby talk” however, as this can be condescending and cause frustration in your loved one.

Always use proper names when speaking to your loved one. This means that you should avoid ambiguous pronouns like “he,” “she,” or “they.” Rather, introduce yourself by name and use the name for your loved one that you’ve always used. This can give them enough familiar cues to avoid confusion.

Also, try to talk about just one thing at a time. Hopping around from subject to subject can be very confusing, so take your time, speak clearly and let each subject run its course before beginning a new one.

Dealing With Troubling Behavior

There will be good days and bad days when it comes to someone with dementia, and when they have a bad day, all you can do is try to make it as comfortable for them as possible.

For instance: your loved one suddenly insists on sleeping on the floor rather than in their bed. Attempting to dissuade them from doing so may not help and may upset them. Instead, try to accommodate them and make them comfortable by placing a mattress on the floor. This way, they can still do what they feel like is right.

Of course, if they are display troubling behavior that can harm them, you must figure out a way to stop it. If you don’t live with the person, you may have to remove knives and other sharp objects so they don’t accidentally cut themselves. Just pay attention and stay vigilant so you can help them out in any way possible.

Dealing with dementia is tough, but there are ways to overcome the challenges of communication.

Jamie Gould knows what dementia does to someone. His Mom has dementia and he has recently had to make the difficult decision to put her into care as he can no longer keep her safe at home. He shares his tips and thoughts online.

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