Parkway Village - A Baptist Health Community

Communicating with Someone Who Has Memory Loss

Published on November 15, 2018

Communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is difficult, but it’s not impossible. With a few conversation techniques and a lot of patience, you can converse with your friend or family member and make them feel loved and supported as they navigate life with memory loss.

Give your full attention.

When speaking with someone with memory loss, maintain eye contact and use their name to draw them into the conversation. If you are multitasking or distracted, they will likely have a hard time focusing on and responding to what you are saying.

Speak clearly and simply.

Enunciate each word, keep sentences concise, and avoid speaking too softly. If you notice your loved one struggling to find the right words or answer open-ended questions, ask yes or no questions. That will make it easier for them to stay involved in the conversation.

Don’t talk down.

Avoid speaking to your loved one as if they are a child. Though they may not be able to show it, your friend or family member likely will pick up on your behavior and tone. Speaking to them as an adult helps them maintain a sense of dignity.

Don’t argue.

Your loved one is likely to say something you won’t agree with or something that is not true. Criticizing, correcting, or arguing can upset them, as it’s likely they’ve lost basic reasoning skills. When they say something wrong, simply move on to another topic.

Remove distractions.

It is difficult for someone with memory loss to focus on a conversation. Help them out by turning off the TV or radio. Talk to them in a quiet place without other people or distractions.

Be patient.

Communicating with someone with memory loss can be trying. Though it may be frustrating for you, it is much more frustrating for them. Ease their struggle by being patient and remaining positive.

Talk, even if they can’t.

In the late stages of Alzheimer’s, your loved one may lose their ability to communicate at all. Even though they can no longer speak, the last thing they need is for their entire world to go quiet. Spend time telling them about your life, updating them on the lives of those they love, or telling them about current events that they would find interesting.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is hard. At Parkway Village we’re committed to supporting you and your family through this difficult journey. We offer a monthly support group where you will find others in similar situations. To learn more about The Ginny and Bob Shell Alzheimer’s Center and the monthly support group, or to schedule a tour of the center, call (501) 202-1600.