How to communicate effectively with a person with dementia

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be very challenging as their past ability to communicate and understand can be affected. A previous article we’ve compiled gives you an insider’s perspective of the experience of dementia.

The inability to understand or be understood is extremely frustrating, leaving the person feeling angry, inadequate and isolated. Communication breakdown is a major influence on behaviours.

Communication is not so much about what you say, but how you say it. When caring for a person who has dementia and who is having difficulty communicating this is especially true.

Body language makes up 55 per cent of our communication, while our pitch and tone of voice makes up 38 per cent – leaving the actual words at only seven per cent. People with dementia usually experience deterioration in their ability to communicate verbally.

They rely on non-verbal communication to help interpret what is being said. Use body language to generate warmth and respect, and convey your message in an impactful way.


Reduce distractions and noise and close the door. Allow the person to focus and if required tell them your name and relationship. Make eye contact and wherever possible meet them at eye level.

Speak clearly

Speak slowly and clearly in a calm and friendly manner. Relay one piece of information at a time – break it down.

Use “I” statements

Frame everything in an “I” statement rather than a “you” statement and choose a blameless approach to problem solving.

Old times

Reminiscing about old times uses past events to distract and calm a person living with dementia and promotes wellbeing. A person with dementia typically loses their short term memory, but retains their long term memory, so reminiscencing is a great technique to tap into an ability the person has.

“Yes” or “no”

Questions directed at yes or no answers or with limited choices work best.


Being playful and keeping a good sense of humor is good for everyone.


By changing the environment or the subject you can move a person living with dementia through upset or agitation. It is important to acknowledge their feelings before distracting them.


Sometimes people living with dementia become disorientated and unsure of themselves and recall things that didn’t happen. Keep your focus on their feelings and comfort them.

Managing repetitive speech

Repeating a statement or question over and over sometimes happens with people living with dementia. Carers should respond with encouraging words. Signage pointing to the bathroom, whiteboards or digital clocks with day and time can help with people who are confused about their routine.

About Oxley Home Care

Oxley Home Care, established in 2006, is a family owned Sydney company and an approved government provider for aged care services who specialises in dementia care.

For the last decade, Oxley Home Care’s staff have been providing Dementia Care, Private Care, Home Care, Nursing and Allied Health which enables people – regardless of their age – to live in their own home throughout the Sydney Metropolitan area.

Oxley Home Care is an Approved Provider of Home Care Packages funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing and holds an allocation of Home Care Packages. These packages are designed to provide assistance to the elderly to remain living at home.

Oxley Home Care’s mission is to empower people; regardless if they are frail or aged, by providing quality services specifically tailored to meet their individual needs.

Our care philosophy focuses on Consumer Directed Care (CDC), a philosophy designed to empower you to make informed decisions about the type of care and support services you believe best meet your needs.

To gain access to a Home Care Package, the Government requires that you undergo a comprehensive assessment by your Local Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). To arrange the assessment contact My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or visit the My Aged Care website.

Gilian Douglass

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