Communicating effectively

Living with Dementia

Useful Information 


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In addition to memory, dementia can alter a person’s perception and emotions. When a loved one is experiencing these effects of dementia, it can be quite difficult for family and friends to communicate with them. Learn about some common dementia-related scenarios and how to overcome communication challenges with your loved one. 


If your loved one’s sense of time is distorted

  • Sometimes the best response is to simply accept that your loved one believes they are living in the past
  • If your loved one appears to be in another time and place
  • Avoid attempting to bring them to your reality - the facts won’t change their perception
  • Acknowledge them and introduce yourself
  • Ask if you can spend time together

If your loved one is angry

  • When approaching someone who appears angry or aggressive, stay at least five feet away.
  • Be careful about approaching face-to-face or making direct eye contact - this can be misconstrued as threatening and may cause them to lash out.
  • Establish trust before moving closer to your loved one, in order to help prevent injury.
  • Avoid appearing controlling. Give them time, excuse yourself and approach again later.


If you are unsure how to greet your loved one

  • Always smile, and approach from the front to prevent startling them.
  • Assess their body language before reaching out to make physical contact.
  • If they recognise you by sight, use your usual greeting for them.
  • If they don’t recognise you, call their name and introduce yourself by name. Don’t add a lot of details about your relationship, as this might be overwhelming.


If they fail to recognise you

  • Don’t force the issue or repeat your name over and over again - this will only create frustration and confusion.
  • Remain calm, try to make eye contact and discuss something you know they like or find comforting.