Communicating With Dementia

  • Assist With Toileting Needs- A person with dementia may have trouble communicating their bladder is full or that they are constipated. Assisting them with a regular toileting schedule can ensure this isn’t the cause of agitation. Simply asking them if they need to go can often trigger them to remember to use the bathroom.
  • Check Pain Level- Pain is often the cause of agitation and behavior issues for someone suffering from dementia. You may ask them if they’re in pain, and many times they will say “No.” But if you notice grimacing or rubbing a joint or their stomach, often times they are in pain. It can be almost impossible to communicate with a dementia patient who is pain. It is important to treat this pain appropriately with medications, rest, or various other methods.
  • Check Their Hunger- A person with dementia may not always know they’re hungry, or they may not remember how to ask for something to eat. Asking the person if they’re hungry or simply offering a snack at routine intervals can help prevent behavior issues caused from hunger.
  • Hot or Cold- You may notice your patient or loved one is pacing a lot and very agitated. Check their temperature by feeling their skin. Are they hot or cold? It is not uncommon for a patient with dementia to put on multiple layers of clothes, or barely any clothes. Thus they may become very hot or cold quickly and not realize they need a jacket or to remove some layers of clothes. Even if they appear to be dressed appropriately, checking their temperature by feeling their skin will tell you if they are too hot or too cold.
  • Infection- Often times a dementia patient will exhibit behavioral issues and agitation without any apparent reason. An infection can cause major behavior changes and agitation, and there may be no other symptoms. If you’re trying to communicate with a dementia patient, and there isn’t anything that is working to calm them, it may be time for the doctor to check that patient. A urinary tract infection is one of the major causes of behavior changes in dementia patients.