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Dementia and communication difficulties

Patient information A-Z

This leaflet is for carers and family members of people with dementia. Dementia describes a set of symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by disease. There are different types of dementia. How quickly dementia progresses depends on the individual. Each person is unique and experiences dementia in their own way.

Dementia can affect:

  • memory
  • reasoning
  • behaviour and emotions
  • communication skills
  • ability to carry out daily activities

Dementia and communication

Every person is different but some common problems are:

  • difficulties talking and finding the right words
  • difficulty understanding
  • confusion about time, places and objects
  • forgetting names of friends and family
  • changes in social behaviour eg withdrawn or emotional

This may be upsetting and frustrating for the person with dementia and for those around them.

If someone is upset, aggressive, or behaving unusually it might be because they are struggling to communicate something to you.

Advice to help communication difficulties

  • Attract the person’s attention before you start to speak.
  • State the topic, such as, “Your ankle. Is it sore?”
  • Use short, simple sentences.
  • Offer the person visual clues such as gesture, pictures and objects to support what you are saying.
Visual clues, hand gesture and illustration of lunch
  • Pay attention to the person’s body language, facial expression and gesture.
  • Keep the environment calm with minimal disruptions.
  • Use touch, which offers comfort and reassurance.
  • Make a life book with photos from the past and likes/ dislikes to talk about together.
Holding hands

Helpful resources and websites

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151