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Communication skills training in dementia care: a systematic review of effectiveness, training content, and didactic methods in different care settings

  • Eva Eggenberger (a1) (a2), Katharina Heimerl (a1) and Michael I. Bennett (a3)


Background: Caring for and caring about people with dementia require specific communication skills. Healthcare professionals and family caregivers usually receive little training to enable them to meet the communicative needs of people with dementia. This review identifies existent interventions to enhance communication in dementia care in various care settings.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE, AMED, EMBASE, PsychINFO, CINAHL, The Cochrane Library, Gerolit, and Web of Science for scientific articles reporting interventions in both English and German. An intervention was defined as communication skills training by means of face-to-face interaction with the aim of improving basic communicative skills. Both professional and family caregivers were included. The effectiveness of such training was analyzed. Different types of training were defined. Didactic methods, training content, and additional organizational features were qualitatively examined.

Results: This review included 12 trials totaling 831 persons with dementia, 519 professional caregivers, and 162 family caregivers. Most studies were carried out in the USA, the UK, and Germany. Eight studies took place in nursing homes; four studies were located in a home-care setting. No studies could be found in an acute-care setting. We provide a list of basic communicative principles for good communication in dementia care. Didactic methods included lectures, hands-on training, group discussions, and role-play.

Conclusion: This review shows that communication skills training in dementia care significantly improves the quality of life and wellbeing of people with dementia and increases positive interactions in various care settings. Communication skills training shows significant impact on professional and family caregivers’ communication skills, competencies, and knowledge. Additional organizational features improve the sustainability of communication interventions.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Eva C. Eggenberger, MSc, MD, Department of Palliative Care and Organizational Ethics, IFF-Faculty for Interdisciplinary Research Vienna, University of Klagenfurt, 1070 Vienna, Austria. Phone: +43-1-522 4000–101; Fax: +43-1-522 4000–178. Email:


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Communication skills training in dementia care: a systematic review of effectiveness, training content, and didactic methods in different care settings

  • Eva Eggenberger (a1) (a2), Katharina Heimerl (a1) and Michael I. Bennett (a3)


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