May 26, 2023
Reading Time 4 min.

Dealing with Parents with Dementia? Here's How to Communicate Better

Dementia is a complex and debilitating disease that affects millions of people worldwide. 

It is a broad term used to describe a decline in cognitive abilities, including memory loss, impaired reasoning, and difficulties with language. 

Unfortunately, dementia often leads to communication breakdowns between the person with the disease and their loved ones or caregivers. 

So today, we will discuss the importance of effective communication in dementia care and how we could improve our communication with seniors experiencing this. 

What dementia looks like in real life 

It's hard not to be emotional when writing about this. 

As a physical therapist specializing in geriatric care, I've witnessed many of my patients go through dementia's unique challenges. 

Often, we talk about dementia as an illness. But if you look deeper, it's more like seeing people fade away. 

And it's hard for family members to see their loved ones become a shell of their former selves. 

This TikTok account captures the description of dementia pretty well. It's like you're not sick, but you just don't feel well. 


“Not sick, not well.” I imagine she’s feeling some kind of void. Restlessness that she can’t address. #alzheimers #journal #dementia #sundown #inbetween #feelings #empty

♬ original sound - Ayoya - Ayoya

A good life is measured by how you filled the years, days and moments with both the big and small stuff. She has had a very good life! #alzheimers #journal #dementia #goodlife #accomplishment #achievement #bigandsmall

♬ original sound - Ayoya - Ayoya

Sometimes it's conversations like this one.


I love you dad. If you haven’t yet, go hug your parents/loved ones today. #dementiaawareness #youarenotalone #ilovemyparents #fyp #fatherdaughterlove

♬ original sound - Bailey Rose

Imagine how difficult it is for them to discuss these things with their parents.

It must have been heartbreaking, knowing that one day their memories will all be lost.

That's why as caregivers, our goal should include how we could help improve communication with our dementia patients.

It might be difficult at first, but establishing good communication early on will help you manage your experience and relationship as the disease progresses.

Effective Communications 

Effective communication is essential for quality of life, especially for individuals living with dementia. 

Communication helps people with dementia express themselves and maintain relationships with friends and family. 

Unfortunately, as dementia progresses, it can become more challenging to communicate effectively. 


One critical aspect of effective communication in dementia care is understanding the person you are communicating with. 

This involves understanding the individual's preferences, communication style, and background. 

Learning about the person can help you tailor your communication approach to best meet their needs. 

For example, some individuals with dementia may prefer visual aids such as pictures or drawings, while others may respond better to touch or physical gestures.

When communicating verbally with a person with dementia, using simple language and short sentences is important. 

Complex or abstract concepts can be confusing and overwhelming. 

Asking one question at a time and allowing plenty of time for responses can make communication easier. 

Additionally, repeating important information, if necessary, can help ensure the person understands the message.

Reading non-verbal cues 

Communicating with someone who has dementia can be a challenging experience. 

Their ability to express themselves through words may be compromised, making it difficult to understand their feelings. 

However, your loved one's facial expressions and body language can still provide valuable information about their emotional state. 

When you observe that their forehead is wrinkled or they're not making eye contact, it could indicate that they're confused, frustrated, or overwhelmed. 

non-verbal cues

It's important to approach them with patience and understanding during these times. 

One way to help them feel more at ease is by gently touching their arm or shoulder. 

This simple gesture can convey your presence and make them feel comforted. 

If you notice that they're pointing at something, like a glass, it could mean they're thirsty. 

Paying attention to these nonverbal cues can help you better understand their needs and alleviate their discomfort.

It's crucial to remember that people with dementia require extra care and compassion. 

They may struggle to communicate with you, but their feelings and emotions remain valid. 

By being attentive to their nonverbal cues and showing them kindness and empathy, you can create a safe space for them to express themselves in their unique way. 

Ultimately, with patience and understanding, you can help individuals with dementia feel cared for and supported.

Acceptance is Key

Dealing with a parent who has dementia can be an incredibly emotional and challenging experience.

It's natural to feel a range of emotions as you witness your loved one's decline and struggle to communicate effectively.

One of the most important things to remember when dealing with a parent with dementia is acceptance. 

And this means acknowledging that the person you once knew may no longer be the same. 


Their behavior and actions are not intentional but rather symptoms of the disease. 

Through acceptance, you can see your loved one with compassion and empathy. And you learn to understand that they are struggling and need support.

Acceptance can also help reduce stress and anxiety levels for you and your loved one. 

When you let go of expectations and accept your new reality, you can focus on creating a safe and comfortable environment for your parent. 

This may include modifying their living space, engaging in activities stimulating their memory, or seeking professional assistance.

Above all, acceptance allows you to provide the best possible care for your parent. 

By accepting the limitations of the disease, you can approach caregiving with patience, kindness, and understanding. 

You can find moments of joy and connection despite the challenges and create meaningful memories with your loved one.

Final Thoughts 

While it's not easy to watch someone you love struggle with dementia, acceptance can help you navigate this difficult journey gracefully and empathetically. 

When you move towards acceptance, it's much easier to come from a place of understanding. 

Sure, there will be days when it might feel too much. But remember that it's harder for them too. 

Remember that you're not alone and that resources are available to support you.

That's all for today.

Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!


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