Talking Points

Do’s and Don’ts for approaching a conversation with someone who has dementia.

 

DOs

  • Minimize distractions. When possible, choose a calm, quiet location to have the conversation.
  • Keep the exchange simple. Use clear, straightforward questions, or yes/no questions.
  • Remain positive. Stay patient and calm when waiting for a response to create a safe environment for communication.
  • Use non-verbal cues. Physical cues can help illustrate what you are trying to say. For example, grabbing a raincoat to indicate it’s time to leave.
  • Be flexible with your approach. Rephrase your question, rather than repeat it, if the person is confused.
  • Use humor. Welcome laughter to bond and to move past tension or mistakes.
 

DON'Ts

  • Speak condescendingly. Try not to use coddling speech; it can be perceived as disrespectful.
  • Have a short fuse. Getting visibly frustrated or annoyed can be confusing and hurtful to the person you are speaking with.
  • Interrupt or speak over the person. Allow longer than usual time to respond; interrupting can stop the flow of communication.
  • Over communicate. Asking too many questions or over-explaining can be overwhelming.
  • Dismiss emotions. Instead of glossing over the person’s feelings, make them feel heard and respect their sentiments.
  • Argue. Suspicion and distrust can be side-effects of dementia. Keep that in mind, and if distrust arises, reassure the person or re-direct the conversation. [ ]