In honor of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month this November, I am offering some helpful tips for the many men and women helping to care for and support their loved ones with Alzheimer’s Disease or another type of dementia.

Below are the top five most effective tips for positive communication with your loved one with dementia:

Be calm and positive.

  1. Speak with simple, clear, brief, and direct words.
  2. Give one direction at a time and demonstrate exactly what you would like the person to do.
  3. Give choices, such as “Would you like to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt?”
  4. Never quiz, argue, or confront a person with dementia.

People with dementia have the same desire as everyone else to contribute to their household or to the community; the need to communicate and to be productive does not end once someone has a diagnosis of dementia.

When it is difficult for people with dementia to communicate effectively using verbal language, they may use actions such as refusals, pacing, throwing, hitting, leaving the area, or staying alone in their room to communicate feelings or needs such as boredom, pain, stress, hunger, or fear.

Involve all care partners to brainstorm together to provide input about when the behavior occurs, how long it lasts, when and where it happens, how often it is displayed, what the possible triggers are, and how the different members of the care team respond to it. Once the care team figures out why a behavior is happening, they can test different solutions for meeting the needs of their loved one.