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Professional & Specialists (includes volunteers)

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In this topic, you will learn about how to manage correct communication with the patient

Learning outcomes

After completing the topic, you will:

  • Relate effectively with the patient
  • Promote socialisation and promote the maintenance of autonomy
  • Detect and analyze the personal characteristics and needs of the individual, to guide the assistance activity and create a good relational climate with the direct beneficiary and family members


The gradual worsening in the ability to make oneself understood or to understand others proves to be one of the most disastrous and disarming consequences of dementia patients, to be faced by both the patient and for family members or caregivers.

It is therefore necessary to equip oneself already from the first stages of the disease  with a series of easily applicable means and techniques that attempt to improve or keep mutual communication effective for as long as possible.

The carer must be good at communicating with the person who has dementia. When a dementia patient begins to struggle to express themself in words, anxiety, depression, anger and a sense of frustration grow, which can lead to closure in silence. Non-verbal communication skills, on the other hand, are affected later and it is therefore important, when caring for people with cognitive dementia, to continue to stimulate them.

An effective caregiver must be an effective communicator. Communication—talking, listening and exchanging information—is at the heart of caregiving. Effective exchanges will allow you to understand the person’s needs, express any concerns to the doctor.

2.3.1 Non-verbal communication

The content of this topic to use non-verbal communication with a dementia patient and gives some hints and tips on how to do that.

This implies:

Focusing on one thing at a time. During the moment of the dialogue do not try to have anything else done. The patient’s attention span is limited, so let him focus on one activity at a time.

Create a welcoming atmosphere: Avoid communicating in noisy environments, turn off the television and music, so that the patient can concentrate on the message you are transmitting.

Use para-verbal communication: tone, rhythm and speed greatly affect the understanding of voice messages. Speak slowly, using an appropriate tone of voice – neither too loud nor too low.

Gesticulation: To facilitate understanding you can use the movement of the arms, body and facial expressions. In particular, the latter must be consistent with what you say: even if the patient does not recognize the face, he always catches the smile.

Maintain eye contact: Stand at the same height as the patient and do not look away. It will be easier for him/her to focus on what you are saying, feeling more involved.

Posture: Maintain a welcoming posture: sit or stand in front of the person you are talking to, without crossing your arms or crossing your legs.

Hugs and caresses: To maintain a state of calm and security, you can put a hand on the shoulder or leg of the patient or take his hand or even caress him. The important thing, in order not to obtain the opposite effect, is not to overdo it: even a sick person can be annoyed by excessive physical contact.

Speaking from the heart: when talking to a person, even more so with a sick person, one must identify with their experience, to create an emotional contact that facilitates an exchange.

A quick list to remember:

  • Focusing on one thing at a time
  • Create a welcoming atmosphere
  • Use para-verbal communication
  • Gesticulation
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Maintain a welcoming posture
  • Hugs and caresses
  • Speaking from the heart

Forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s have effects on people’s motor and cognitive abilities. One of the most compromised skills (on a visible level) is communication. From the beginning there are changes in the way of speaking of the patient, but it is important to continue to communicate with him. Non-verbal communication acquires a fundamental role, especially in the more advanced stages of the disease.

Non-verbal communication is that part of communication that includes the aspects of exchange between people that do not concern the semantic level of the message, i.e. the literal level of words, but of the body: gestures, caresses, hugs, looks, smiles and everything ours body can express.


Key points:

  1. Good communication is essential and various methods have to be tried until one is discvered that works for both parties

1. List of references

Further reading