Dementia and Communication

Dementia is caused by a breakdown of the connections in the brain, affecting people’s skills, abilities and interactions.

It is an illness that generally gets worse over time. Symptoms include memory loss, difficulty in concentrating and problems with understanding and communicating.

People who are beginning to develop dementia will most often notice problems with their memory and with performing tasks that they used to be able to manage easily.

Problems with memory are a normal feature of ageing, but in people living with dementia they make managing ordinary tasks very difficult and frustrating – or even impossible.

As they struggle to manage everyday tasks, many people living with dementia may try to hide symptoms from loved ones. They may also become anxious, depressed and fearful or irritable. All this can make coping with the underlying condition more difficult.

As the illness progresses these feelings may change or take different forms. People’s character and behaviour may also change radically as the result of cognitive loss, which carers often find very difficult to understand or to bear. People living with dementia may feel a sense of loss of identity, begin to garble their words or stop communicating altogether, appearing apathetic and unresponsive.

Nonetheless, though dementia is often sad, undermining abilities and dignity, people living with the illness have a right to be treated with respect.

People around them need to take the time to think through how it might feel to have the illness, and to adopt strategies that help people with their problems, their choices and retaining their dignity.

This should help people living with dementia to keep control of their lives and to minimise their worries. It allows them to keep fighting but also to relax, to find humour in their predicament, and to retain a sense of fulfilment and of being valued and loved.