How to Connect with a Loved One with Alzheimer's or Dementia

Smiling senior woman sitting in lounge at senior living community

Compassionately connecting with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is essential, but many still wonder how to make these connections even stronger. Tremendous value exists in rethinking how you converse with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease and considering new ways you can strengthen your relationship amidst the disease’s day-to-day challenges. 

Let’s explore some of the most effective ways you can compassionately connect and share moments of joy with your senior loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Questions about memory care pricing? We break it down here. Get the guide. >>

5 Tips for Connecting with a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

You can implement several strategies to build connections with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. 

1. Get educated.

One of the most important things you can do for your loved one is to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This will help you learn how to best connect with your senior loved one and know what to expect going forward. It can also help you relate to your loved one’s experience and understand their changing behavior.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that affects a person’s behavior, thinking, and memory, and it can interfere with daily activities. The disease progresses in stages:

  • Mild: In this stage, symptoms interfere with some daily tasks.
  • Moderate: In this stage, symptoms become more pronounced and interfere with many daily tasks.
  • Severe: In this stage, symptoms interfere with most daily tasks.

2. Be patient.

It may take your loved one longer to complete activities such as personal hygiene tasks or eating. It can also be hard for them to remember instructions and directions. 

These changes in your loved one’s ability to perform tasks or remember directions can be embarrassing or upsetting for them, so do your best to be patient through these moments and not get frustrated. Strategies to show patience and understanding include:

  • Guiding your loved one step by step through activities or directions
  • Focusing on just one task at a time
  • Building in more time for tasks and including breaks

If your loved one is doing something that they’re enjoying but not doing the task well, don’t point it out. Avoid criticizing or correcting your loved one if they’re finding enjoyment in the moment, especially if the activity isn’t harmful.

3. Rethink conversations.

Reconsider how you have conversations with your loved one, and be creative about how you compassionately connect with them. 

To improve their ability to pay attention, turn off distractions such as the television or radio before talking with your loved one. When you need to talk with them or ask them something, put yourself at your loved one’s level. For example, if they’re sitting down, you should sit down, too, and maintain eye contact.

Avoid open-ended questions, and reframe questions to be yes or no questions. For example, instead of asking what your loved one would like to drink, ask them if they would like a glass of water.

It’s especially important to avoid arguing. If you don’t agree with something your loved one said, it’s best to let it be and not argue over it.

Remember that lengthy requests can be overwhelming. Keep any instructions or requests as simple and clear as possible.

4. Build a routine.

Think about it: Change is hard for everyone because when an environment is unstable, it creates stress and unpredictability. Your loved one is already struggling with changes in their cognitive ability, and changes in a routine or setting further tax their ability to cope.

Routine provides a sense of safety and security for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It helps them know what to expect each day, which can reduce stress as well as decrease anxiety and difficult behaviors.

A routine is also beneficial for you and your relationship with your loved one. It helps ensure you have time to get everything done in a day. It also creates more efficiency while you enjoy spending time with your loved one rather than causing you to feel like you’re juggling a lot of moving parts.

A good routine carves out time for important tasks throughout the day and ensures those tasks occur in a predictable order every time. Hallmarks of an effective daily routine include:

  • Unstructured time with your loved one: This is a set block of time to spend with your loved one, whether it’s looking at photo albums or just sitting together. 
  • Activities of daily living: Your loved one will likely need some assistance with activities of daily living such as grooming, bathing, and eating. These activities should be incorporated into your routine, but keep in mind that your loved one’s needs will shift over time. For example, your loved one may become fearful of the shower, so you may remove this task from the routine on certain days.
  • Your self-care: Taking time to do something you enjoy each day is vital to your well-being and can help reinvigorate you for the next day of caregiving.
  • Your daily tasks: You may still have a full-time job, children to care for and pick up from school, and other required daily activities. Make sure your schedule includes the time and support required for these tasks.

5. Engage in enriching activities.

Be a calming presence for your loved one. Engage in activities that are enjoyable and relaxing, including: 

  • Listening to music
  • Looking at photo albums together
  • Reading a book
  • Reminiscing about the past such as hobbies or sports your loved one used to enjoy

Help your loved one socialize regularly by attending special events with them, such as a book club, church gathering, or other activity. Choose options that are important to them or that you’ve both enjoyed participating in together. Not only will these events improve socialization opportunities and strengthen the bond between you and your loved one, but they will also help your loved one avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness that are linked to cognitive decline.

Consider Future Care Plans

As you know, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are progressive conditions. Your loved one may be doing well in their current residence with caregiver support, but it’s important to plan for the future while your loved one can provide as much input as possible. 

Is it time for memory care?

It can be difficult to know when it’s time to consider memory care. You should consider memory care when it’s no longer safe for your loved one to live in their current residence. Additionally, pay attention to changes in behavior or mood swings, incontinence, declines in health, and confusion and disorientation that could compromise your loved one’s safety.


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What is a memory care community like?

You may be wondering what exactly a memory care community is like. Memory care communities provide special assistance to those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and they’re staffed with team members who are accustomed to providing the level of assistance those individuals require.

Memory care communities have additional physical safety and security measures compared to assisted living communities. For example, security measures should be in place to prevent residents from wandering. Unlike other senior living apartments, memory care apartments won’t include a kitchenette so your loved one can’t accidentally leave any burners on.

Memory care communities are centered around person-directed care, meaning that each resident’s routines, preferences, and choices are respected. These communities are also staffed with caring and compassionate team members who provide a supportive and enriching environment.

How do we find the ideal memory care community?

There are a lot of factors to consider when looking into memory care communities as part of future care plans. One of the top concerns is the cost of a memory care community. 

At Cedarhurst, we’re tackling the confusion and concerns about pricing with our Insider’s Guide to Memory Care Pricing e-book. Explore our guide today so you can make an informed decision for your loved one in the future.The Insider's Guide to Understanding Memory Care Pricing

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