What Are You Trying To Say? Dementia and it’s communication code. By Kathy Spence

Have you ever become frustrated with your loved one living with dementia because you have tried everything you know to do and still they are angry or sad or scared?  Did you know that if certain needs are left unattended, your loved one’s dementia will present itself in seemingly unconnected ways?

If Grandma is acting out in an angry manner, it’s possible that she may be hungry or thirsty and she is not able to verbalize her physical wants to you.

Angry senior shaking fist


If Grandpa just wants to sleep in his chair and you know he had a good night’s rest, the answer may be that he is feeling sad and he cannot put into words what his true feelings are all about.  Over-excitement may lead to the same result, you loved one may suddenly seem sad for no apparent reason.

Senior man sleeping in armchair at home.








A sudden bout of loneliness from the senior with dementia may actually have more to do with an unmet need to use a restroom, or an “accident” that they are not able to explain to you in words.

Sad older woman






Sad older man








The elderly patient living with dementia may seem scared, more than confused.  A cause for this can be attributed to this person feeling too hot or too cold and just have no ability to verbalize exactly what it is they are needing at this particular time.




Part of the difficulty in helping your loved one live with dementia is learning a new language, their language of emotional cues.  After having eliminated (to the best of your ability) all of the obvious physical and environmental possibilities, it’s very likely that there is pain involved.

Pain can be radiating from any number of places; stomach ache, bowel or urinary issues, joints, head ache, old injuries, heart or gastrointestinal issues, discomfort in skin creases or folds, uncomfortable sitting or lying down positions, the list can seem endless.








Try your best to get at the nature of the pain and make your loved one comfortable.  When all else has failed, it may be time for a trip to the doctor or hospital.


Taking care of someone living with dementia requires a certain amount of “sleuthing” on the part of the caregiver to meet and address all of the often unspoken needs of the elder loved one.  The benefits are worth it when you find those fleeting moments of lucidity and you are there to “see” him or her again, even briefly.



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