5 Tips for Starting a Conversation with a Loved One with Dementia

When a loved one is experiencing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, one of the biggest challenges that family members and caregivers face is how to continue to have positive and meaningful conversations with their loved one. The types of conversations that were once enjoyed may no longer interest or make sense to a person with memory loss, and family members are left wondering how to engage and connect.

Elderly woman with the young doctor

Fortunately, there are some specific communication techniques that help. If you are caring for a person with memory loss, follow the five tips below to begin engaging and positive interactions:

1. Breathe

Before starting a conversation, it can help to take five deep breaths to center yourself. Do your best to stay positive and confident – smile often and stay still throughout conversation.

2. Have a Topic in Mind

Begin your dialogue by bringing up topics that you know appeal to the person with memory loss – such as: favorite hobbies, areas of interest, books or songs. Mention or discuss these favorite things throughout your conversation. Avoid topics that may cause irritability or anger.

3. Sit side-by-side

Create a partnership by sitting side-by-side throughout your conversation. It also helps to sit at eye level as often as possible – avoid talking down at your loved one.

4. Listen Fully

Listen carefully to what your loved one is saying, and try to avoid asking many questions. Contrary to what we may want to say, it helps to treat every statement as if it were true (even if it is not factually correct). Fact-checking or correcting may confuse someone with memory loss.

5. Stay Focused

Showing that you are engaged in the conversation will help keep your loved one focused. Make frequent eye contact and bring your full attention to the conversation; avoid multi-tasking when you are talking together.

Further support

If you are caring for a loved one with memory loss and you are looking for practical or emotional support, our Dementia experts can offer dedicated services and guidance. Find out more about Seniors At Home’s Center for Dementia Care.