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Communicating With Persons Living With Dementia

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​Helping Your Loved One Who Is Staying Alone

Dementia can affect your loved one's ability to communicate and go about their daily life.

Learn about the different ways a person in the different stages of dementia talks to others, and how you can respond when communicating with them. You can also learn about ways to keep them engaged in everyday activities, using a daily routine, to keep them mentally and physically active.

​​​​​​​​​Communicating Across Stages of Dementia

Here are some ways dementia affects your loved one's ability to communicate with you and others.

Early Dementia

Able to participate in meaningful conversation with difficulty in articulating certain words.

Able to communicate in brief social interactions with difficulty functioning in prolonged social settings.

Difficulty with following lengthy conversations.

Moderate Dementia

Able to follow simple one- step instructions.

May understand written information in a word-by- word process.

Conversations are hard to follow.


Advanced Dementia

Difficulty with verbal communication as vocabulary may be reduced.

Use of non-verbal communication methods is recommended.

Verbal expression may be in patches or strings of words and sounds.

Use of non-verbal communication methods is recommended.

​​​​​​​​​Guide to Communicating

Dementia can affect your loved one's ability to communicate. They may communicate or interact with people differently than before.

Verbal Communication

Approach them with care. It is thoughtful to knock on the door or ask for their permission before you enter.

Always introduce yourself to them. Speak directly to your loved one.

Communicate with them at eye level.

Ensure that their physical space is comfortable and quiet. Engage with them in one-on-one conversations in a surrounding with minimal distractions.

Optimise your loved one's vision and hearing. Ensure that their glasses are properly worn and the lighting is sufficient; their hearing aids are in good working condition, and; that dentures are put on for clearer speech.

Non-Verbal Communication

SIGHT. Choose a quiet room with sufficient natural light. Use soft lights so that shadows and glaring brightness can be reduced. If possible, choose a colour that your loved one likes for the surroundings.

HEARING. Music can trigger memories, improving mood and allowing engagement. It's a good idea to play light, soothing and relaxing music, but it's best to understand your loved one's music preference.

SMELL. Scent the room with essential oils of lavender and lemon. These fragrances have been shown to reduce anxiety and agitation for people with dementia.

TOUCH. Never underestimate the power of a loving touch. Hold your loved one's hands or give them a light hand massage.

​​​​​​​​​Do's and Don'ts When Communicating with Persons with Dementia

Consider these tips when communicating with them:

Use different senses as a form of communication with your loved one

  • Give visual cues. If you do not understand your loved one, ask them to point or gesture as well. Written notes can be helpful when a spoken word seems confusing.

Simplify what you say

  • Avoid lengthy conversations that require complex thinking. Break down tasks with clear, step-by-step instructions.

Be patient

  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Take time to listen to what your loved one feels, thinks, or needs.
  • Give them a time to respond.

Be supportive

  • Offering comfort and reassurance can encourage them to open their thoughts to you.
  • Look for the intentions behind words or sounds.
  • Observe their body language.

Treat your loved one with dignity and respect

  • Keep eye contact as much as possible and acknowledge your understanding of their expression and words.
  • Do not exclude your loved one from conversations with others.


​​​​​​​​​Communicate with CARE

Appropriate Language To Use

You may learn about appropriate language to converse about dementia through the guidelines developed by Dementia Singapore: Words Hurt – Dementia Singapore​​

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