Engaging People with Dementia – 10 Easy Approaches

There are many ways to engage those living with cognitive impairment. Here are a few tried and true approaches to consider:developingfriendships

  1. Say hello and use the person’s name. When visiting those living with dementia, avoid “How are you?”. Try “How’s life?” It is an easier, more concrete question to answer.
  1. Validate them. Say for example: “I’m glad I found you” or “I’m happy to see you again”. Be yourself and be real.
  1. Tell them what you are doing first. Then proceed.
  1. Invite (versus making a request). Rather than “Would you like…” try this: “I invite you to…”. Invites imply a potential warm relationship with you and that they are needed.
  1. Speak slowly. But use a warm, adult voice— avoid sing-song speaking and ‘baby talk’.
  1. One thing at a time. For example, ask one question, then wait for a response.
  1. Allow expression of negative feelings. Just ‘walk alongside’, don’t fix. Validate by saying: “Thank you for sharing that”. If they need to cry, simply be present.
  1. Always, always include the person in your conversation. When someone speaks about you as if you were not there, it feels like you don’t matter.
  1. Ask questions that can be answered. Ask yes/no, either/or questions. Avoid cognitive questions (e.g. what’s your name, what day is it), avoid asking ‘why’ and saying ‘Don’t you remember me?’ Help by filling in the gaps.
  1. Offer a hug. Always ask first and check for comfort levels while giving the hug.




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