Understanding and supporting a person with dementia

2. Practical impact of dementia

Having dementia makes it difficult for people to do many practical things. This will affect their day-to-day life and they may need to adapt how they do things. When supporting the person, there are approaches carers can take that can reduce the impact of these practical difficulties and help the person maintain a sense of normality for as long as possible. This will help the person to feel independent and maintain their self-esteem.


People with dementia often experience difficulties communicating - for example, problems with finding the right word or following a conversation. Other factors that may affect communication include pain, other conditions, side effects of medication, and sensory impairments. Difficulties with communication may cause a person with dementia to lose confidence or withdraw from social situations. Families, friends and carers may find that these difficulties are frustrating and can increase stress.

Communicating with a person with dementia: tips for carers

  • If the person finds verbal communication difficult, speak slightly more slowly and use simple words and sentences. Be more aware of the tone you adopt.
  • A person with dementia may use their behaviour and body language to communicate, such as gestures, eye contact and facial expressions. Carers' non-verbal communication is also important, and the person with dementia can notice or pick up on expressions and gestures.
  • Try to maintain eye contact. This will help the person focus on you.
  • Try to avoid sudden movements and tense facial expressions, as these may cause upset or distress.
  • Try not to stand too close or stand over someone when communicating - it may make them feel intimidated.
  • Make sure the person is included in conversations. Try not to speak on their behalf, complete sentences for them or allow others to exclude them.
  • Listen to the person. Give them plenty of time, remove distractions like background noise and try to work out the meaning they are trying to convey. The message may be about feelings, not just facts.
  • Avoid asking too many direct questions. Consider giving the person options or asking questions with a yes or no answer.

For more information see our page: Communicating.