How Do You Talk to Someone With Dementia?

Shenandoah Senior Living is a resource for families in Front Royal, VA, who have loved ones living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Since we’ve resumed visitation in our community, you may be wondering how to communicate with someone experiencing memory loss whom you haven’t spoken to in a while. When visiting memory care residents at Shenandoah Senior Living or anyone living with dementia, here are some key points to keep in mind.

Shenandoah Senior Living | Senior Practicing Memory Care
Robert Kneschke –

What is dementia?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines dementia as a “general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with doing everyday activities.”

  • Dementia is not a specific disease, but a term describing symptoms associated with memory loss conditions.
  • Alzheimer’s accounts for 60-80% of dementia diagnoses.
  • Alzheimer’s occurs in stages. People can live for years before knowing they’re experiencing memory loss due to dementia. Diagnosis is not usually available until the middle stage; however, doctors can diagnose dementia during early on-set stages as well.
  • In Virginia, there are currently 150,000 people living with Alzheimer’s.

How do you communicate with someone who has dementia?

The part of the brain that Alzheimer’s affects limits the ability to create short-term memory. However, reminiscing about past experiences and memories can lead to enjoyable conversations. Ask your loved one questions about the environment around them to get started.

DoDo not
Find a quiet placeTry to hold a conversation in an environment with too much sensory stimulation
Sit together at eye levelPace and change positions
Use relaxed body languageConfront or argue
Speak clearly and calmlySpeak in a high-pitched voice, shout, or talk to the senior like a child
Be patient and allow time for a reaction and responseTake what is said personally
Keep sentences short and simple. Avoid “you” statements and use “I’. For instance, I was thinking we could eat lunch together instead of Did you eat lunch today?Correct the person if he or she says something wrong. Instead, try to agree, empathize, and redirect the subject to avoid conflict.

You may discover there is a time of day your loved one responds better to the conversation. Memory care relies heavily on establishing a routine, but we also live in the moment. Feel free to improvise if you need to.

What should you talk about when visiting someone with dementia?

As Alzheimer’s San Diego says, “You can’t control memory loss – only your reaction to it.” Despite not showing physical signs, memory loss is a disability, and we should be sensitive to that fact.

Avoid asking questions like Did you enjoy your breakfast? or Do you remember our old house? since these questions could reinforce your loved one’s condition and lead to frustration because he or she genuinely cannot remember. “Yes or no” questions work better than open-ended questions that may lead to confusion.

Practice empathy and think about how you might feel in that person’s shoes. Sometimes you might not have to say much. Being present and an active listener helps more than you realize. Even if that person becomes upset, let him or her express negative emotions.


  • Photographs: Pictures can be a powerful tool for recalling past events and stories.
  • Engage the senses: Use your environment around you to stir up conversation.
  • Humor: Telling jokes or just being silly may have better effects than mood medications.
  • Music: Recall the past through songs your loved one enjoyed, concerts you attended together, or the song he or she danced to at their wedding.
  • Non-verbal communication: A hand to hold, a hug, or even a pat on the back could mean a lot to an older adult.

How does Shenandoah Senior Living provide memory care?

Memory care in our community is about building opportunities for independence for people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Being able to complete a task, no matter how simple, gives our residents a sense of purpose.

Memory care residents benefit from the Cherish foundations we utilize:

  • Personalized: Individualized care and attention
  • Engaging: Programs designed to provide structure and purpose
  • Meaningful: Create moments that inspire residents’ enjoyment
  • Innovative: Use the latest technology and research to build new programs

Look at how we spend our time at Shenandoah Senior Living:

Care Services
  • Medication management
  • Bathing, dressing, and grooming
  • Individualized service plans
  • Walking club
  • Music journey
  • Card and board games
  • Gardening
  • Pet therapy
  • Green Thumb Gardener™
  • My Moment™
  • Experience Excursions
Hospitality Services
  • Three nutritious meals and snacks every day
  • Housekeeping
  • Linen service
  • Transportation

Shenandoah Senior Living is a valuable resource for families in Front Royal. Our memory care signature programming promises:

  • To act kindly.
  • To seek knowledge.
  • To be compassionate.
  • To see strengths.

Our trained memory care associates seek to interact with residents’ families, which helps them discover who our residents are as individuals. This extra step is how we create personalized care.

We offer the only companion suites in the area and remain dedicated to being a cost-effective option for memory care in Front Royal.


How can I discover if memory care is right for my loved one?

Please call us at (540) 635-7923 or visit our website to set up an appointment.
Discover more about memory care in Front Royal, VA, on our blog.
See what we’re up to and receive invitations to our events on Facebook.
Find additional Alzheimer’s support in Virginia.

Please note that Shenandoah Senior Living and its management company, Proveer Senior Living, use cookies as outlined in Proveer Senior Living’s Privacy Policy, where you can individually opt out of this practice. By continuing to browse Shenandoah Senior Living’s website, you agree to its use of cookies.

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