Communication Tools for Dementia Caregivers



How to Talk to a Parent with Dementia

When a loved one is suffering from dementia, communication and behavior changes. Learn tools and tips for how to talk to a parent with dementia.


The stages of life are not always smooth. We begin lives so full of energy and the belief that anything is possible. As we grow and age, our travels, and experiences leave us with lots of memories.

Unfortunately, when dementia sets in a person's life forever.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 50 million people are living with dementia worldwide. At least 10 million new cases occur each year.

If your mom, dad, or grandparent has dementia, it can create mixed emotions. You may wonder how to talk to a parent with dementia if he or she doesn't remember you.

Follow along as we discuss ways to communicate with someone who has dementia.

(If you suspect your loved one may have dementia or Alzheimer's, check out our article on early detection and family preparedness.)

What Is Dementia?

Dementia gets classified as a chronic syndrome in which cognitive deterioration occurs. Dementia affects memory, thinking, comprehension, language, ability to learn, or use judgment. But the conscience is not changed. 

The person experiencing dementia may struggle to control emotions, social behaviors, and motivation, according to WHO.

Stages of Dementia

Dementia comes in three phases, early, middle, and late. The early phase might be missed due to the gradual symptoms of lost in familiar places and forgetfulness. The middle stage involves getting lost within your home, trouble communicating, needing help with personal care, and wandering. The late phase includes difficulty walking, unaware of day, time, or location, and unable to recognize family or friends. 

Types of Dementia and Treatment

Dementia comes in many forms. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease and represents 60 - 70 percent of cases, according to WHO. 

Other forms of this disease include vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.

There is no treatment for dementia. But the research on possible treatment methods continues.

Tips On How To Talk To A Parent With Dementia

If you're a caregiver for a person with dementia, it's essential to learn how to talk to someone with dementia. As the disease progresses, communication skills diminish. So learning to understand the needs and wants of your parents is critical. 

Early Dementia

During early dementia, helpful communication tips include speaking to the person and not the aid, making time to listen, and allowing your mom time to respond. Asking what activities she wants to do and remembering to laugh together is good, too, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Middle Dementia

As the disease advances to the middle stage, speaking clearly and slowly with eye contact could engage your mother. Having the patience to allow your mom to respond shows how much you care. 

Not engaging in criticizing, arguing, or over-correcting helps the mood stay positive. Ensure your directions are simple but efficient. Complicated tasks might overwhelm her. If necessary, show what you want her to do.

Late Dementia

During the late stage of dementia, it's good to approach your parent from the front and introduce yourself, treat your parent with dignity and respect, use nonverbal cues like pointing or gesturing.

Including the five senses, especially touch and music, could help increase relaxation. Sometimes lacking the words to express is okay. Spending time together is all that matters.

Remember It's Not Their Fault

Learning how to talk to a parent with dementia doesn't happen overnight. You're going to have bad days where your mom or dad was combative or soiled their pants. But it's not their fault, and reminding yourself of this fact could help strengthen your waning patience.

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