Communicating with Someone Who Has Dementia



Environmental factors

  • Remove loud distractions
  • Don't try to compete for attention
  • Allow enough time
  • Keep approaches consistent across the care team

Body language

  • Stay still and face the person while talking
  • Sit close (but don't invade their personal space)
  • Get down to a person's level
  • Make and maintain eye contact
  • Use friendly and reassuring facial expressions
  • Physical touch (where appropriate)
  • Use hand gestures such as pointing
  • Ensure your body and facial expressions match what you are saying and your tone of voice


  • Speak at a slower (not condescending) pace
  • Use a pleasant and respectful tone of voice
  • Remain calm and matter-of-fact
  • Address the person by name
  • Identify yourself by your name and position
  • Use the specific names of people and places
  • Avoid medical jargon
  • Ask questions one at a time
  • Allow time for the person to process and answer your
  • Don't overload your client with questioning


  • Be patient
  • Listen to what the person may not be saying with their words, but with their body
  • Try to work out the meaning behind the feelings and words they are expressing
  • Don't be afraid to suggest words if they are struggling to find the right one
  • Actively listen - offer encouragement by smiling and nodding
  • Don't rush or interrupt the person

What not to do...

  • Don't ask questions that rely on short-term memory in conversation, such as "what did you eat for breakfast?"
  • Don't argue
  • Don't be condescending
  • Don't talk about the client as if they are not there
  • Don't ignore the person if they have not made sense to you
CPD time1m
First Published16 September 2019
Updated15 September 2019
30 August 2027
Learning Tools