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15 Questions You Could Ask a Person Living With Dementia Over the Phone

This article is republished with permission from LifeBio.


It may seem tough to communicate with a person living with Alzheimer's Disease or other related dementias by phone, especially during a global pandemic.  Here are two tips for starters.

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  • Share your own story or memory first because a person living with dementia may “play off” of that. Talk about what you saw when you were walking outside this morning.  Share about the dew on the grass, the puddle you stepped in, or the song a bird was singing. A normal conversation is what everyone is seeking, and you can start.  Paint a picture as you share—use all the senses.
  • Details really DON’T matter all the time.  Example: I remember having a conversation with a man in a secure memory care area, who loved telling me about his wedding day. He could describe what his bride was wearing, what color his suit was, how hot the church was, and how wonderful it was. He did not recall when or where it was. But it sure didn’t matter. We spoke for an hour. I could see this working on the phone too.

Here are 15 questions that I think could work on the PHONE. I adapted these especially as I was thinking about being on the PHONE with someone with dementia.

  1. When I was a little kid, we would always go to __________ with my friends. I used to ride my bike a lot. Did you like riding a bike?
  2. Did your car or truck ever breakdown? What happened? I’ll tell you, one time this happened to me….
  3. My grandmother made the best __________ (kind of food). Do you like this too? Was your grandmother a good cook? How ‘bout your mom or dad?  (Food is always a good topic!)
  4. I played __________ (sport) in school. Did you like to play that sport too?
  5. I remember being on a farm when I was a kid. We had __________ (animals, crops). I liked the farm. Were you ever on a farm?
  6. I used to go shopping at __________ (store). Did you ever go shopping there? The other day I went to the store and I bought __________....
  7. My pet __________ is sitting right here. Do you know what color he is? __________. Do you have a pet? I had a pet __________, named __________, when I was little. He used to run away all the time….
  8. What’s one of your favorite things to do at the center? Is it when there is music, or do you like the crafts better? Do you have a favorite song? Do you have a favorite craft?
  9. One time I went on an airplane. I went to __________. Have you done a lot of traveling? Do you like to travel? (Maybe they will share about a work trip or a vacation.)
  10. I haven’t asked you about your work before. Can you tell me about your work at __________?  (Hopefully you know something about the kind of work he/she did at home, volunteer, and/or paid employment).
  11. I know you love your kids and grandkids. I thought I would tell you a funny story about my son/daughter. Back in 1977....
  12. One of my favorite movies is __________. Have you seen it? Do you like that one? I like how there is that funny part….
  13. I got the newspaper this morning. It reminded me that I used to deliver the newspaper. Did you ever do that?….
  14. I am wondering if you’d ever like to travel to outer space. I think it would be scary. How about you?
  15. I’m looking out my window. I see some tulips out there, and I also see…. What do you see?

senior-man-with-dementia-talking-on-phone


For more information on the preventive measures in place at PSL communities amidst COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as useful resources for residents and family members, please visit www.psl.org/updates.Guide To Staying Healthy During Your Senior Years

About Presbyterian Senior Living

Presbyterian Senior Living is a not-for-profit organization, fulfilling its charitable purpose and mission by providing high quality retirement choices, healthcare services and affordable residential living options for people 55 and older for more than 85 years. Headquartered in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, Presbyterian Senior Living provides services to approximately 6,000 seniors in 30 locations in the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.

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