How to Talk to a Parent with Dementia

The situation: You’re caring for a loved one with a form of dementia. And you have no idea where to begin on how to talk to someone with dementia.

Is it common for this person with dementia to:

  • Say or do things that are inappropriate?
  • Not respond the way you expect?
  • Say things that don’t make sense?
  • Use words that are close but wrong?
  • Repeat themselves or not remember instructions
  • Deny what you know is true?
  • State as true what you know is false?
caring for a loved one with dementia

Do you experience one of many of the above and you haven’t a clue to what to do? Well, know that you are not alone and many of us who have a loved one with dementia feel lost and frustrated at times trying to communicate.

Get Educated about the Forms of Dementia

caring for a loved one with dementia

Different types of dementia impact the brain in different ways. Get educated on what to expect as time goes on. Types of dementia include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)
  • Mixed dementia (more than one type of dementia occurring in the same brain)

They have different symptoms and cause a variety of changes in abilities. Furthermore, the order and rate of changes will vary as well. The more you learn about the disease and how your loved one will be affected, the better you can plan your support.

Make a Connection

Learning how to talk to a parent with dementia can feel like you are speaking a new language.  Let’s call it ‘dementia speak.’

When it comes to communication, the belief is that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words.

At Aware Senior Care, we believe this wholeheartedly. If you have been received formal dementia training by educators such as Teepa Snow, you’d know that movements and facial expressions are critical.

Leveraging information from our friends at the Dementia Alliance of North Carolina, below are some tips on how to connect and communicate with someone with dementia:

  • Approach from the FRONT respecting personal space
  • Move SLOWLY in a non-threatening manner
  • Make EYE Contact
  • Initiate the greeting & introduce yourself
  • Move to the SIDE and OFFER YOUR HAND
  • Wait for their response
  • Make POSITIVE STATEMENTS: “Let’s try…” “Could you please help with…”

Helpful Ways to Talk with Someone with Dementia

  • Greet the person before moving into action
  • Explain what is happening but keep it simple
  • Offer simple choices instead of asking yes/no questions
  • Break the task down into single one at a time steps
  • Give the person time, don’t rush
  • Respect personal space
  • Don’t argue or correct
how to deal with dementia in a parent

The advice above is proven and will help. However, recognize your daily communication plan can vary depending on your loved one’s capabilities that day.

It’s not uncommon for sun-downers to cause your loved one to be irritable and angry.  It’s also not uncommon one day your loved one seems very cognizant and “with it” and the next day forgets the names of your children.  Be ready to intelligently improvise.

Make a Plan for Dementia Caregiving

It’s always beneficial to make a plan.  You will feel more organized, calm, and confident if you can make a comprehensive plan to help your loved one afflicted with dementia.

How can you do that?

Download our dementia planning guide and the 10 Absolutes of Caregiving for a person with Dementia by filling out the form below: