Barriers to Communicating to Persons with Dementia

Dementia alters communication in two major ways:

  • It affects the way your loved one interprets your efforts at communication
  • It affects they way they express themselves

Communicating with someone with dementia can be a daunting task. Upon first diagnosis, you and your loved one may find it sad or emotionally difficult to communicate your thoughts and feelings about the disease. You may not notice any actual cognitive challenges in communication in the early stages of dementia, or you may noticed that your loved one has trouble finding the words they want to, or may be unable to remember things that are familiar to them. Such inconveniences can turn into much more difficult issues in the later stages of dementia, when language may be greatly or mostly compromised.

During the early and mid stages of dementia, you may notice the following issues when trying to communicate with your loved one with dementie:

  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Repeating the same words or phrases again and again
  • Substituting words that sound similar
  • Inventing new words to describe familiar objects
  • Easily losing train of thought
  • Difficulty organizing words logically
  • Reverting to speaking in a native language
  • Using curse words (a strange quirk of diseases that sap language skills)
  • Speaking less often, or even not at all
  • Relying more on nonverbal gestures to compensate
  • Trouble understanding conversation, questions and instructions (Alzheimer’s Association NYC)

View References

Alzheimer’s Association, New York City Chapter. Communicating. Available at: Retrieved January 24, 2011.