Holistic care delivered with compassion - supporting families with Dementia

Communicating with Your Loved One Who Has Dementia

It’s on the tip of my tongue.” We hear it all the time in casual conversation, but for people with dementia, it can be a persistent and irritating problem. Dementia can make it difficult for people to communicate normally – especially tragic for those accustomed to being the most articulate person in the room, or for those who know multiple languages. In later stage dementia, those affected can have trouble expressing their basic challenges, such as pain, hunger or thirst – leading to irritation and even aggression when those problems remain unaddressed.

For this kind of situation, our at-home dementia care professionals follow a simple protocol called ABDE. Here’s how it works:

A. Allow Time. Communicating with someone with dementia takes patience. They have diminished capacity, but you don’t. Take the time to understand them.


B. Back Off. “If you insist, they will resist.” They will be more cooperative at a later time. Make sure they have everything they need and adapt to the situation.


D. Distract. A person with dementia can abruptly show anxiety or irritation in certain situations, such as when you are bathing them, or taking them to a doctor. Reminisce with them, calling them back to a positive memory in their past that they can hang on to – and this will mitigate the anxiety they feel.


E. Enter Their World. This is the most important – and hardest, thing for a loved one to do. Your mother-in-law is calling you by her daughter’s name? Telling you they’re somewhere different than where they are? The truth is that their reality is their reality. Don’t contradict them. Let them interact normally with you, with no argument – you’ll avoid a lot of needless antagonism.


By following these rules and providing professional dementia care, our people have seen amazing improvements in their clients’ situations. Check out our case studies and see what our clients have been able to accomplish with loving care.

The Most Common Myths About Dementia

As dementia care professionals, a big part of our job is educating our clients and families about what they’re truly facing. It’s not uncommon for families to have encountered misinformation as they go through this trying time – and those misconceptions can be part of what hinders a diagnosis in the first place, or delay much-needed professional care. Here are some of the most common myths we hear from our clients – and also, the reality that we’d like to get across.

Home Care Dementia


Myth 1. “Only old people get dementia.” This is a particularly troubling myth, as early onset dementia can be mistaken for anti-social behavior – leading to isolation and withdrawal by people affected by dementia, who don’t realize what has happened to them.

The truth is that dementia can potentially affect people at any age, long before they ever approach retirement age. I’ve personally seen it diagnosed in someone who had just turned 42, and it can happen to people who are even younger. Certainly, Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia are more common in old age, with a risk factor of up to 50 percent for those 80 years or older – but other kinds of dementia can affect you at virtually any age.


Myth 2. “Alzheimer’s and dementia are two different things.” They’re not – though this is easily one of the most common misunderstandings out there. Alzheimer’s is just one type of dementia – it’s a disease that does commonly affect older people and is irreversible. It’s important to make a distinction, because other conditions that present as dementia, such as those caused by vascular problems, can be preventable.


Myth 3. “All people who develop dementia are aggressive.” This myth is often based on traumatic personal experience, or at least anecdotal advice from well-meaning people who have experienced aggression. The truth is that irritation and aggression are a response to an unmet need. People with dementia often have difficulty expressing themselves because they have literally lost the ability to say the words they want to use – but if they could speak plainly, they would tell you they are experiencing pain, thirst, hunger or some other basic challenge. If you were in that situation and couldn’t communicate, you might also get agitated. Try to work out what they need and make sure they are comfortable and aggression is less likely to be an issue.


Myth 4. “Everyone with dementia will have the same symptoms and react in the same way.” Unfortunately, this myth is common enough that some who ought to be receiving a diagnosis and treatment get delayed. The truth is that not all behaviors present themselves in the same way. It depends on the part of the brain that has been affected – and a non-professional might not recognize the signs. If you suspect someone you love has dementia but have held off on seeking help because they didn’t match the exact profile that you expected, you might prevent them from getting the help they need when they need it.


Myth 5. “There’s nothing you can do to prevent dementia – so why try?”

This might be the most pernicious myth of all. Dementia is irreversible, but you can at least slow down the progress of the disease, helping the affected person to live a fuller life. Early diagnosis is important in this case – and lifestyle changes can reduce the incidence of some types of dementia. Imagine the case of a grandmother who a urinary tract infection and resulting delirium, a medical problem that can present very similar symptoms to dementia: she sees changes in her surroundings and is confused. With close, compassionate and professional care, someone suffering from dementia can still take steps to maximize their self-confidence and autonomy.