Caring for a loved one with dementia 3: communication challenges


Previously in our Caring for a Loved One with Dementia series, we talked about body language and improving communication with those living with dementia with Lewy bodies. Here, we talk about communication challenges and how you can help.

Often, dementia can pose communication challenges between you and a loved one living with dementia. These include:

  • Running out of things to talk about, as there is a lack of regular stimulation from elsewhere
  • Carers may become cautious about offering too many choices as this can lead to confusion
  • Carers may lose motivation when engaged in routines and thought processes every day
  • A feeling you cannot express yourself honestly may restrict conversations

Helping with personal care

Many things become a challenge when faced with dementia. Bathing can become a particular challenge, especially as a loved one may need help. Here are some tips to help with personal care.


  • Using all-in-one gels
  • Not filling water up all the way to the top
  • Helping a loved one to sponge themselves

Oral hygiene

  • Watch out for a refusal to eat, pulling at the face or mouth, leaving dentures out, agitation or disturbed sleep. This could indicate a dental problem


  • Urinary/faecal incontinence may happen with advanced dementia. This may involve not reacting quickly to the need to go, poor mobility, not being able to communicate the need, an inability to find or recognise toileting facilities, not understanding prompts, not loosening clothing or cleaning up.
  • A loved one may be embarrassed about incontinence so they may try to hide accidents or refuse help
  • Incontinence products can help to minimise accidents

How can you help with personal care?

  • Offer encouragement
  • Use the same words as usual
  • Learn a person’s usual pattern
  • Watch out for fidgeting, agitation, tugging on clothes, touching genitals
  • Remind the person of the actions they need to take to guide them through it
  • Keep the bathroom door open so a loved one can see the toilet