Apple or Orange? How to Speak to Someone with Alzheimer's Disease

by Jillian Pinks, RN



Dementia is a progressive illness. Over time, it will change the person's ability to communicate, understand, and remember everyday facts, such as names, places, and dates. How you communicate with someone who has dementia may help them express their needs better, which in turn will help you care for them. Below you will find tips for communicating effectively with someone with dementia.


1. Speak clearly and slowly, using short sentences.

2. Call them by their name, not "honey," "babe," or "sweety," for example.

3. If you tell someone, "I'll be right back," please do so.

4. If you must leave, use the words, "I will see you soon" or "I will be back as soon as I can."

5. Limit options and offer simple choices.

6. Use other ways to communicate, for example, visual communication: place an apple and orange in front of a loved one and let them choose what they would like. Friendly facial expressions help the loved one feel comfortable, which may help with communication.

7. When they answer, acknowledge what they said, encourage them to speak more about their answer.

8. Encourage conversations with others in groups.

9. Give them ample time to answer; do not correct the answer if wrong.

10. Make eye contact with your loved one when communicating, and give them your full attention.

11.Do not interrupt them. Hold their hand while talking with them as this can help them feel comfortable, which can help them communicate.

12. Remain calm and patient when communicating, using a positive and friendly tone. Do not use the words "no," "can't," or "don't."

13. Remain at a respectful distance, be at their level or lower.


Communicating with a loved one with memory loss has its challenges, but these tips can help Caregivers, family members, and the patient. Speaking with respect and genuine warmth will increase successful communication with someone with dementia.