How Michael is finding creative ways to communicate with his wife Jilly


How Michael is finding creative ways to communicate with his wife Jilly


Communication is important to all relationships. For Michael, finding a way to communicate with his wife Jilly, who lives with dementia, became even more important than ever.

Michael shares his experience of developing a ‘dementia language’ to communicate with his wife.

In 2005, Michael started to notice his wife Jilly displaying some out of character behaviour. This behaviour marked the start of early onset dementia, and his family’s journey with the condition.

When someone is living with dementia, it can be very hard to communicate with that person.

“A key issue for me was trying to find and maintain ways of communication”, Michael shares. Rather than get discouraged by the challenge, Michael tried different ways to bridge the gap between himself and his wife Jilly.

“Dementia is unique for each person. There is no one language-fits-all, so use all mediums you have had success with.”

For Michael, he found success through relying on the connections he and his wife had developed over 40 years, but using them in a different way – “perhaps changing the sequences, altering the habitual connection points”, he recommends.

“It’s up to each family and carer to find their pathway and personal trigger points that create the spark of connection”.

Some of the ways Michael found connection with his wife included playing music, holding her hand, going for walks, and affectionately adjusting her hair. “Do everything with purpose, love and passion” he says.

“Above all, stay positive, respectful and confident. Even through the days where the connection may be wildly illusive, frustrating and unrewarding”.

Michael urges other families on the dementia journey to stay connected at whatever level you can manage. For his family, this sentiment was brought home to them during the COVID lockdowns, where his family was separated from his wife for nearly six weeks.

Attempting to develop ways of communication with someone living with dementia can be a challenge. “Some days you don’t get any feedback, so when even a small connection occurs, it brings a clear and powerful message that Jilly’s still there, and our efforts are not in vain. We are together in the moment.”

Read more of Michael and Jilly’s story here.

For more information on dementia and supporting your loved ones, visit our Dementia Topic Library.