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Businesses That Care: A Dementia Awareness Conversation™

Presented by Kara Harvey of Elder-Well® Adult Day Program

Download handout from our “Businesses That Care” presentation

During our conversation, we cover the following topics

  • What is Dementia?
  • Behaviors that may indicate someone has a memory impairment
  • Basics for Dementia Friendly Business Owners & Customer Service teams

Included below are more resources for business owners that want to ensure their storefronts and staff are dementia friendly.

In partnership with the Dementia Friends USA movement, we are certified Dementia Friends Champions. We would be happy to schedule an info session for you and your staff! Please reach out to us at


Dementia Friends Resources — Dementia Friends is a global movement that is changing the way people think, act, and talk about dementia. By helping everyone in a community understand what dementia is and how it affects people, each of us can make a difference for people touched by dementia.

Dementia Friends USA Trailer

Dementia Friends: 5 Key Messages

Communication Tips

  • Consider these tips when communicating with a person who is living with dementia.
  • Treat the person with dignity and respect. Avoid talking past the person as if he or she isn’t there. Include the person in the conversation.
  • Be aware of your feelings. Your tone of voice may communicate your attitude. Use positive, friendly facial expressions.
  • Be patient and supportive. Let the person know that you are listening, that you care about what they’re saying, and you want to understand. Be careful not to interrupt.
  • Offer comfort and reassurance. If the person is having trouble communicating,
    reassure them that it’s okay and encourage them to continue.
  • Avoid criticizing or correcting. Don’t tell the person that what they are saying is
    incorrect. Instead, listen and try to find the meaning in what is being said. “Focus on the feelings, not the facts.”
  • Sometimes it’s easier not to use words. If you don’t understand what the person is saying, ask them to point or gesture. When spending time together, listening to music together, or a gentle hug can sometimes work better than talking.
  • Know that an individual’s communication patterns may change. In general, dementia changes a person’s brain more and more over time. Communication tips that work now may not work as time goes by, and you may have to try a new approach.

Conversation Tips

When approaching a person who is living with dementia and starting a conversation:

  • Come from the front, identify yourself, and keep good eye contact. If the person is seated or reclined, sit down so that you’re at eye level.
  • Use short, simple phrases and repeat them if needed. Ask one question at a time.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Use a gentle and relaxed tone.
  • Patiently wait for a response. Give the person time to process what you said.

During the conversation:

  • Try offering a simple statement rather than a question. For example, say, “The bathroom is right here,” instead of asking, “Do you need to use the bathroom?”
  • Speak directly and use the name of objects and people to make things clearer. For example, say, “Here is your hat,” instead of “Here it is.”
  • Give visual cues. Point or touch the item you want the person to use, or demonstrate the task. Written notes or pictures may also be helpful.
  • Turn negatives into positives. Instead of saying, “Don’t go there,” say, “Let’s go here.”
  • Try not to ask questions like “Do you remember when?” or “Do you know who the person in this photo is?” This can feel like a quiz! Instead, share your memories, or “invent” stories about the photos together. This tip can be very challenging for family members and friends, because they are grieving the loss of the relationship the way it was before dementia. They need support and understanding, too.

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