July 17, 2017

Communication Tips: Middle Stage Dementia

In our last blog post, we touched on some of the communication changes and challenges that people in the early stage of Alzheimer’s and related dementias experience. In many ways, dementia is a moving target, so symptoms -and the solutions to address those symptoms- are in a state of flux. As dementia progresses to the middle stage, a person’s ability to communicate is further impacted and the ways in which they try to articulate thoughts and feelings change, too.


The middle stage of Alzheimer’s, sometimes referred to as moderate Alzheimer’s, is typically the longest and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, a person with dementia will have greater difficulty communicating and will require more direct care. To connect, gently approach the person with dementia from the front, say who you are and call the person by name.

• Allow time for response so the person can think about what he or she wants to say.

• Engage the person in one-on-one conversation in a quiet space that has minimal distractions.

• Be patient and supportive. Offering comfort and reassurance can encourage the person to explain his or her


• Maintain eye contact. It shows you care about what he or she is saying.

• Avoid criticizing or correcting. Instead, listen and try to find the meaning in what is being said.

• Pay attention to your tone and recognize the effects of your mood and actions (not just your words).

• Avoid arguing. If the person says something you don’t agree with, let it be.

• Speak slowly and clearly.

• Instead of asking open ended questions like, “What would you like to drink?” as “yes” or “no” questions such as,

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

• Ask one question at a time.

During the middle stage of Alzheimer’s and related dementias, remember that the person is an adult and they retain a sense of self despite the losses associate with the disease. Your approach alone can make a tremendous difference in their quality of life and how they feel about themselves.

This blog post is Part 2 of a 3-part series on effective communication strategies.