How To Successfully Interact With Dementia Patients

Jul 25 2017

How To Successfully Interact With Dementia Patients

Diane Mockbee BS, AC-BC, provides excellent advice in her recent column on how to provide loving care and understanding to Dementia patients.

Dementia Symptoms

Dementia symptoms vary greatly. At least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia:

  • Short and long-term memory loss
  • Communication and language deficits
  • Inability to focus and pay attention
  • Poor reasoning and judgment
  • Visual perception loss

Dementia patients frustrate easily, become angry, and negative. Miss Mockbie recommends keeping lines of communication open by following these interactive tips.


Tips to improve communication and preserve dignity with Dementia Patients

  • Create a calm environment. Take things slowly and smile whenever possible. If the resident seems upset, show care and concern.
  • The tone of your voice and your facial expression are very important, since residents pick up on nonverbal cues easily. Try not to over-react to a situation.
  • Always assume residents can understand what you are saying. Never talk about the person as though he/she is not present. If you do, a behavior could occur and then you have more issues to deal with.
  • Avoid quizzing the person on names and dates. Not knowing the answer can be very embarrassing for them. This quizzing also can increase distrust and the belief that you are “testing” them. Often when we give a cue, the confused person can answer.
  • Draw their attention by providing a gentle, reassuring touch on an arm or shoulder, or by holding hands. When you provide touch, you demonstrate security, a caring nature and your compassion.
  • Get down on their level—sit next to them, bend down or kneel down so you are not hovering over them.
  • Try lowering the pitch of your voice. Do not shout but deepen your voice as it appears easier for them to understand.
  • Make eye contact and slow down. Do not talk too fast and do not rush them. This in itself will create a behavior.
  • Observe the resident’s body language and imagine what he/she might be feeling or trying to express. Is she hungry, tired or in pain?
  • Interact with and preserve the patients’ dignity.


Successful interactions with Dementia patients requires caregivers to realize that their behavior can trigger negative responses from the patient. They must understand that these patients live “in the moment.”  As such, following the tips outlined above will increase their quality of life and provide positive care.


Here at the Grand HealthCare System, our Staff interacts with their patients with great expertise and dignity.

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Barry G

Barry graduated from City University of New York and holds a Ph.D. in Physiological Psychology.

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