A little support makes a big difference

Listen to and connect with me

It can often be difficult for people living with dementia to communicate in hospital or care settings, especially when healthcare professionals lack a proper understanding of dementia and the listening skills required.

If a person with dementia feels like they are not being properly listened to, this can cause them distress and may result in their care not meeting their specific needs. Here are some easy and effective listening strategies that healthcare professionals can use when communicating with people living with dementia.

Make a connection

Let the person know they have your attention by making eye contact with them. Use their name in conversation so they know you are aware of who they are and are engaged with them. Use your body language to show them you are listening to what they are telling you – lean in and nod encouragingly as they speak.

Be patient and understanding

Always try to be as patient and understanding as possible when speaking to people living with dementia and listening to what they have to say. Sometimes the person may take a long time to find the right word or idea, or they might lose track of the conversation. Don’t rush them – give them the time they need to process the information and find the right answer. Try responding to the emotion that is being communicating, for example, “you sound upset about that” or “I can hear that makes you feel sad.”

Get to know the person

Getting to know a person with dementia will help them feel like they are being seen and listened to and will make them feel more comfortable communicating. Ask them what their preferred name is, about their normal routine and their likes and dislikes. Want to learn more about dementia? Go to our Resources section for guides, help sheets, videos and other resources.

The National Dementia Helpline is a free service that provides information and advice to all people who would like to know more about dementia or access services and support.

Dementia Australia’s national library service offers print and digital resources about dementia. Explore information related to these tips by accessing the library guide.