5 Empathetic Strategies for Communicating with Persons Living with Dementia

Learn more about our 5 empathetic strategies for communicating with persons living with dementia.

Communicating with a person living with dementia can be a challenging and emotional experience. Dementia affects not only memory but also language and cognitive abilities, making communication more complex. However, with patience, empathy, and understanding, meaningful connections can be fostered. In this blog post, we’ll explore five strategies to help you effectively communicate with people living with dementia.

  1. Use Simple and Clear Language:
    When speaking to a person living with dementia, it’s important to be clear and concise. Avoid using complex sentences or jargon that might cause confusion. Speak slowly and clearly, giving them time to process what you’re saying. Use familiar words and phrases and try to stick to one topic at a time. Using visual aids such as pictures or gestures can also help reinforce your message.
  2. Maintain Eye Contact and Use Non-Verbal Cues:
    Non-verbal cues play a crucial role in communication, especially for individuals living with dementia who may struggle with language. Maintain eye contact and use facial expressions and gestures to convey warmth and understanding. Pay attention to the person’s body language and respond accordingly. Be patient and give them time to express themselves, even if it takes longer than usual.
  3. Validate Their Feelings and Experiences:
    Persons living with dementia may experience confusion, frustration, or anxiety due to their unique medical condition. It’s essential to validate their feelings and experiences, even if they don’t make sense to you. Show empathy and compassion while reassuring them that you’re there to support them. Avoid correcting or arguing with them, as this can lead to further distress. Instead, acknowledge their emotions and provide comfort and reassurance.
  4. Create a Calm and Comfortable Environment:
    The environment plays a significant role in communication for persons living with dementia. Create a calm and comfortable environment free from distractions, noise, or clutter. Choose a quiet space where you can have conversations without interruptions. Minimize background noise and distractions, such as TV or radio, which can make it difficult for the person to focus. Make sure the lighting is adequate, as poor lighting can exacerbate confusion and disorientation.
  5. Practice Active Listening:
    Active listening involves fully engaging with the person and showing genuine interest in what they have to say. Focus on their words, tone, and emotions, and respond with empathy and understanding. Repeat back to them what they’re saying to ensure you understand correctly and ask open-ended questions to encourage them to express themselves further. Be patient and attentive and avoid interrupting or finishing their sentences. By practicing active listening, you can strengthen your connection and build trust with the person with dementia.

Communicating with someone with has a dementia diagnosis requires patience, empathy, and understanding. By using simple language, maintaining eye contact, validating their feelings, creating a calm environment, and practicing active listening, you can enhance communication and foster meaningful connections. Remember to approach each interaction with compassion and kindness, focusing on preserving the person’s dignity and autonomy. With these strategies, you can effectively communicate with your loved one living with dementia and enrich their quality of life.

How NCCDP can help

The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP) provides a range of resources and services aimed at enhancing the knowledge, skills, and quality of care for individuals working with dementia patients. Here are some of the key offerings provided by NCCDP:

  1. Certification Programs:
    NCCDP offers certification programs for healthcare professionals and caregivers who work with individuals living with dementia. These programs include the Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) certification, which is widely recognized in the field of dementia care.
  2. Online Training Programs:
    In addition to in-person seminars and workshops, NCCDP offers online training programs for individuals seeking to enhance their knowledge of dementia care. These programs provide flexible learning options and cover similar topics as the in-person seminars, allowing participants to access education from anywhere with an internet connection.
  3. Educational Materials and Resources:
    NCCDP provides a range of educational materials and resources, including textbooks, manuals, articles, and videos, to support professionals and caregivers in their understanding and practice of dementia care. These resources cover topics such as dementia basics, caregiver tips, activities for individuals with dementia, and guidelines for creating dementia-friendly environments.
  4. Continuing Education and Professional Development:
    NCCDP promotes continuing education and professional development for certified practitioners through a variety of channels, including conferences, webinars, online courses, and networking opportunities. Continuing education ensures that practitioners stay updated on the latest developments in dementia care and maintain their competency in the field.

NCCDP plays a crucial role in advancing dementia care standards, providing education and support to professionals and caregivers, and ultimately improving the quality of life for individuals living with dementia and their families.

About the Author

Picture of NCCDP Staff


The NCCDP staff consists of a full team of experts in dementia care & education.