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Conversing with People with Dementia

This video that shows how to converse with a person with dementia (time: 2 minutes).

When conversing with someone with Alzheimer’s disease, Normal pressure hydrocephalus, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or any of the other many types of dementias, it might be difficult to know where to start. Due to memory loss from the progression of the disease, as well as an inability to control impulses, leading to difficulty controlling emotions, conversing with someone with dementia is not always an easy task. However, your goal is simple: You want to be able to talk with the Alzheimer’s patient. With the following tips, you will be able to more easily navigate a conversation with an individual with dementia.

To start with, take the conversation slowly and don’t try to control it. If the dementia patient says something that isn’t accurate, don’t point it out, don’t correct him or her, and certainly don’t argue. Also, don’t talk about something new with him or her if what you are saying possibly isn’t true.

In your conversation, make it a habit to use words and phrases that are familiar to the individual. For example, if you have often heard the person refer to his or her pants as britches, do the same.

Use items that are placed around the room to help direct the conversation. For example, if you see a framed photograph of the individual, ask about the photo. This also gives the dementia patient a great visual to go along with the conversation.

Make yourself familiar with the individual, as the more you know about the person, the easier it will be to engage in a discussion. Know who he or she was before being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, what was done for a living, what is considered important, and what it is he or she likes. For example, if you know the individual loved running or sewing, ask him or her about this activity.

Expect to repetitively have the same dialogues, as an individual with dementia has limited memory. It may get frustrating, but keep in mind the individual is simply trying to communicate with you.

Appear engaged in the conversation, because if you don’t, the dementia patient will be able to tell. This will result in a negative experience for the individual and the conversation will end.

Don’t be surprised if strong emotions result in an emotional outburst (crying, laughing, etc.) by the individual with dementia. It can be difficult for someone with Alzheimer’s disease to maintain control over his or her emotions.

This video that shows how to converse with a person with dementia (time: 2 minutes).

Learn simple techniques to initiate and structure a conversation with a person with dementia.