Alzheimer’s and Dementia Communication Techniques

There are a number of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Communication Techniques that are effective in reducing problematic behaviors and improving day-to-day functioning of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Reality therapy:

Interact with the person with dementia within his or her own frame of reference for the world, even if it has little to do with reality.

Validation therapy:

Encourage and validate the person’s view of reality rather than correcting or contradicting it by really listening and asking questions.


Be creative in redirecting conversation without contradicting or denying the person’s statements. Use any opportunity possible to try to elicit fond memories or remind the person of tasks or appointments.

Memory Cueing:

Use words and visuals to cue old or recent memories. For example, play CD’s of family events; place reminder notes in plain view; color code or number things in the order.

Successful communication:

One of the most successful approaches to reducing inappropriate behaviors is to communicate within the affected person’s frame of reference. Consider how your loved one sees the world and interact with respect for that “reality.”

It can also be helpful to engage the person in reminiscing about happier times by sharing memories and old photos; interactions that are focused on past times that the person might be able to recall may be less stressful than trying to communicate about current or recent events, which may not be accessible to the person.

Tips for communicating better:

  1. Try to anticipate and address needs or concerns proactively.
  2. Listen and communicate patiently; try to reduce the frustrations the person may feel from not being able to communicate effectively.
  3. Use memory cues – verbal, visual, auditory – to help the person stay on track during conversations or day-to-day tasks. For example, place clothes prominently in plain sight, in the order in which they should be put on, or visually guide the person during dressing.
  4. Write notes to the person to remind him/her to do routine tasks, and provide clear, written directions for accomplishing tasks.

Therapeutic activities help manage the symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Planning structured individualized activities that involve and interest the person with Alzheimer’s may reduce many of the more disturbing behavioral symptoms of AD, such as agitation, anger, frustration, depression, wandering or rummaging.

Holistic Aging’s Life Care Managers who work with Alzheimer’s clients on a regular basis can attest to the success when therapeutic activities focus on the person’s previous interests; cueing the person to old and recent memories while taking advantage of the person’s remaining skills minimizes the impact of skills that may be compromised.