Conversation is very important to everybody, including people with dementia. It’s how we have relationships, and it can make us feel happy, involved and cared for.
A person with dementia can often remember people, places and events from the past more easily than recent events. They may forget recent events too quickly to talk about them, but enjoy talking about photographs, memories, music or films from the past. Try asking questions about their past, and listen carefully to the answers. By doing this you can help to make your relative with dementia feel loved and involved.
Memory loss and changes to mood and personality can mean that people with dementia say or do things that don’t make sense. They may talk about people, places or events from the past as if they were in the present.
Some people like to try and help by correcting mistakes. Others prefer to go along with what the person with dementia says or does (unless they are doing something that puts themselves or other people in danger). There is no right or wrong. You should do what makes you feel most comfortable.
For some people with dementia, conversation is not possible. Their illness has affected the parts of the brain that control language, making it impossible for them to speak or understand what other people say. This is called aphasia. It can feel very difficult to interact with a person who can’t speak, but sometimes just being there can help. Small things like holding hands, sharing a hug or sitting together listening to music can be special, both for you and your relative.
Visit What works for us to find ideas from other young people who have a grandparent or parent with dementia.
This information was updated in December 2017 and is due for review in December 2019. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.