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Effective communication with anyone under any circumstances is vital to nurturing a relationship. People with Alzheimer’s and other dementias may present verbal challenges because of their changes in thinking and cognition. The following are suggestions for meeting the folks where they are and making the most of your time together.

Set a positive mood for interaction Attitude and body language communicate feelings and thoughts more strongly than your words do. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection.

Focus attention Limit distractions and noise—turn off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings. Address the person by their name, identify yourself by name and use nonverbal cues and touch to maintain focus.

Ask simple, answerable questions Ask one question at a time; those with “Yes” or “No” answers work best. Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices. For example, ask, “Would you like to wear your flowered dress or your blue dress?” Displaying the choices helps clarify your question and can guide a response.

Break down activities into a series of steps This makes many tasks much more manageable. You can encourage them with gentle reminders. Use visual cues—mimic the directions, such as where to place a crayon on paper or a fork on a plate.

When the going gets tough, distract and redirect When managing agitated behavior, try changing the subject or the environment. For example, you might say, I see you’re feeling sad—I’m sorry you’re upset. Let’s go get something to eat.”

Respond with affection and reassurance People with dementia often feel confused, anxious, and unsure of themselves. Further, they often get reality confused and may recall things that never really occurred. Avoid trying to convince them they are wrong.

Focus Stay focused on the feelings that they demonstrate (which are real) and respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort, support, and reassurance. Sometimes, holding hands, touching, hugging, and praise will get the person to respond when all else fails.

Remember the good old days Remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. Many people with dementia may not remember what happened 45 minutes ago, but they can clearly recall their life 45 years earlier. Therefore, avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, such as asking the person what they had for lunch. Instead, try asking general questions about the person’s distant past—this information is more likely to be retained.

Maintain your sense of humor Use humor whenever possible, though not at the person’s expense. People with dementia tend to retain their social skills and often love to laugh!

South Mountain Memory Care focuses on high-quality, personalized care. The brand-new building is a stand-alone memory care community, meaning that the entire building, staff, and programs are designed to cater to residents with cognitive issues. To ensure person-centered care and attention, we have accommodations for up to 28 residents. The building is divided into two neighborhoods (wings), each offering 10 private suites and 2 semi-private suites.

South Mountain Memory Care is located in the Allentown suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and it is easily accessible from the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. For more information, go to

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