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Communicating to Someone with Vascular Dementia

If your loved one has been diagnosed with vascular dementia, you have probably experienced an overwhelming transition. It’s important to remember, that although your loved one may seem different, it’s critical that you continue to encourage them. By communicating with them on a regular basis, you can help them maintain a higher quality of life.

It is inevitable that you will face challenges as the primary caregiver or as a loved one visiting. Before you learn how to effectively communicate, it’s important to understand some of the challenges you may face. Self-education can dramatically improve your understanding and coping skills.

Coping Strategies For Effective Communication

Although it’s emotional taxing some days, it’s important to understand that unrealistic expectations will only cause burnout and frustration. Depending on the severity of your loved one’s condition, things will change and how you adapt can make a significant difference in both of your lives.

If your loved one can’t interpret verbal cues, this can cause increased frustration for both of you. Remember, your loved one has experienced physical changes in their brain. They do not want to feel confused so it’s important not to increase their levels of anxiety. Instead, try to be as clear as possible.

If you need to repeat select words, do so slowly. As you’re speaking with your loved one, reduce overall distractions and background noise. Meaning, if you’re trying to speak with your loved one, do not have the television on in the background. You may be able to block it out, but for your loved one, it can create greater confusion.

It’s critical that you anticipate some levels of misinterpretation. In order to reduce this, do not speak in a confusing manner. Meaning, do not use general pronouns such as he and she. When you’re not specific in terms of names or places, it can be harder to mentally register.

There will be some days that are better than others and whenever possible, evoke positive feelings. Bring up nice memories from the past, places you’ve been, and important people in yours lives. Familiarity can increase positive emotions and reduce feelings of anxiety.

Often, memories from the distant past are not affected. Play family videos, go through old photographs, and just talk about experiences you’ve shared. This can strengthen feelings of being connected and help lift one’s mood. Even if you think some days they’re not responding as well as you’d hope, continue to speak to them and allow them to know you’re there for them.

If their condition continues to progress, you will need to be flexible, understanding that symptoms can change as time passes. If the your loved one is no longer responding to cues you were once using, then it’s time to adapt and implement new strategies. Don’t be shy to ask for help and seek advice from those who have experienced a similar situation or your loved one’s doctor.


UCSF. (2014). Coping Strategies for Vascular Dementia Caregivers. UCSF Medical Center. Retrieved from http://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/coping_strategies_for_vascular_dementia_caregivers/

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