In the world of dementia, the words will fail us. Often we think of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease as losing memories, but it is much more than that. Dementia is very global in nature and affects every part of our thoughts including communication. As a care partner for someone with dementia it is our job to change the way that we communicate with our loved ones. Learning to effectively communicate with our loved ones with dementia is the key to being a successful care partner.

Only 7% of communication is the words that we use. The other 93% consists of body language, tone of voice, facial expressions and listening to name a few. As a person’s disease progresses they rely less and less on the words and rely more on feelings and needs.

Our job as care partners is to decipher the feelings behind their “behaviors” and then respond appropriately. Behaviors are a form of communication; they are an expression of an unmet need.

The way that we communicate with our loved ones will change often throughout the course of the disease. Each stage of the disease comes with its own changes and challenges. The following tips are meant to help you successfully communicate no matter what stage of the disease you are dealing with.

The Long KISSS

  • Keep
  • It
  • Slow
  • Soft
  • Simple

A person with dementia takes 30 seconds longer to process what we are saying to them. So slow down, give them time to respond. Keep your tone of voice soft and use simple concrete language. If you are talking slow enough to drive yourself crazy you are probably right on!

Join their reality!

We must go to where they are. We can no longer ask them to be in our reality. Let them know that you are hearing their concerns, whether it be verbal, expressed through behaviors or both. They just want to know that someone understands them. We don’t always have to have an answer.

NEVER argue

People with dementia lose the ability to reason, so correcting, criticizing and arguing becomes futile. You will never win an argument with someone with dementia. So it is a lot less stressful on them and you if you learn to agree instead of argue. Remember JOIN THEIR REALITY. If they say the sky is purple- then great that is my favorite color.

There is much more that you can do to communicate successfully, but these 3 tips are a great place to start. And remember when all else fails a smile and hug can speak volumes.

Because of the Alzheimer’s Research Fundraiser I held this weekend, I asked my friend Stacie Naslund to sit in as my guest blogger. – Thanks Stacie!

Stacie Naslund has been working with people with dementia and their families for over 15 years. She is the current executive director for Spring Ridge Park Assisted Living in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Spring Ridge Park is a community exclusively for dementia care and practices person centered care. Spring Ridge Park is proud to be celebrating our 20 year anniversary this year where “Our Mission is to Serve Others”. Please check us out at