Communicating and dementia

Better communication can make it easier to meet the needs of the person with dementia, and for you to understand each other.

Good communication can help people to live well with dementia. Understanding the needs, wishes and emotions of the person you care for will become more difficult as their dementia progresses. However, there are many ways to support someone to communicate with you. 

Listen to our audio helpsheet below for a summary of tips to help you communicate:

Why is communicating important for a person with dementia?

Good communication is an important part of living well after a diagnosis of dementia. It helps people with dementia to keep a sense of self, sustain relationships and maintain their quality of life.

Even as communicating becomes more challenging, there are lots of ways to communicate meaningfully together.

What will change as dementia gets worse?

You and the person you care for will have to change how you communicate with each other as their dementia progresses. This can be upsetting and frustrating for the person with dementia and their carers, friends and family.

If the person with dementia is not able to express themselves, they can lose confidence, feel anxious or depressed, or become withdrawn. They may have trouble finding the right word, may repeat words and phrases, or may use one word when they mean another. 

Because they are unable to communicate in the way they are used to, you may find that they get frustrated or that their behaviour becomes challenging or difficult to understand.  

What communicating problems might you face when you have dementia?

As well as difficulties with how they use words and language, people with dementia are likely to have sight or hearing problems which can also make it harder to communicate. 

As more people begin to use smartphones and tablets, you might find that you and the person you care for communicate more through video calls. Seeing your facial expressions and body language can be more helpful to a person with dementia than a telephone call or text message.

Talking about the impact of caring can help. Talk to a friend or family member, or to a professional such as a counsellor or dementia adviser.

Call our dementia support line, or talk to other carers in our online community, Talking Point.

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