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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Huelat

How Does Dementia Affect Communication Skills?

In the tapestry of our lives, the threads of communication weave intricate patterns of connection, understanding, and shared experiences. Yet, for those grappling with dementia, this once-familiar landscape becomes increasingly obscured, presenting profound challenges in expressing thoughts, emotions, and needs. Yes, dementia highly affects communication skills.

My father-in-law, affectionately called Kiki, adored our pet kitty, oblivious to the fact that it was actually our beloved dog. Mom humorously dubbed our ongoing home renovation project as "the floorboards," a term she frequently misunderstood. Hue, often mistaking his inquiry about where his mother was when he was truly seeking his wife. These anecdotes paint a poignant picture of the struggles individuals with dementia face in communication.

Dementia, a progressive neurological condition, relentlessly erodes cognitive functions such as memory, reasoning, and language skills. As the disease tightens its grip, communication becomes an uphill battle, marked by frustration, behavioral changes, and a sense of disconnection. Caregivers and loved ones also play a crucial role, their patience, understanding, and empathy serving as lifelines amidst the communication breakdown.

As dementia progresses, communication is compromised in seven significant ways:

  1. Difficulty in finding the right words, often substituting incorrect ones, and grappling with people’s names and relationships.

  2. Repetitive storytelling, oblivious to having shared the same anecdotes previously.

  3. Forgetting the meanings of words altogether.

  4. Inability to follow conversations or string sentences coherently.

  5. Struggles in expressing personal thoughts, feelings, or needs.

  6. Decline in reading and writing abilities, leading to a loss of comprehension.

  7. Impaired nonverbal communication, including facial expressions, body language, and physical touch.

Despite these formidable challenges, adopting proactive strategies can mitigate the impact of dementia on communication. Five fundamental approaches stand out:

  • Patience and active listening, avoiding arguments or corrections.

  • Maintaining eye contact to foster connection and understanding.

  • Creating a serene environment conducive to communication.

  • Using simple language to enhance comprehension.

  • Employing nonverbal cues like comforting touches or visual aids to facilitate communication.

In navigating the complexities of dementia-related communication, these strategies serve as guiding beacons, illuminating pathways to meaningful connection, and understanding. By embracing these approaches, caregivers and individuals with dementia can forge deeper bonds, preserving dignity and enriching quality of life amidst the chaos.

Dementia may cast a shadow over communication, but it need not extinguish the flicker of connection. With empathy, patience, and resilience, we can transcend the barriers imposed by this relentless condition, fostering moments of shared joy, and understanding amidst the tumult.

Dementia Affects Communication Skills
Does Dementia Affect Communication Skills?

For further insights and practical guidance on dementia care, delve into "Taming the Chaos of Dementia" by Barbara Huelat. A luminary in healthcare design, author, and speaker, Barbara shares her wealth of expertise in this transformative publication, offering invaluable wisdom for navigating the journey of dementia with compassion and skill. Explore Barbara's world at for a journey of enlightenment and empowerment.

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