As more Americans experience Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the roles of qualified staff educators and direct care staff have never been more important. In fact, the important contributions of these people has led to special annual recognition during the winter known as Alzheimer’s and Dementia Staff Education Week, which emphasizes the importance of training and certification related to dementia care. It’s a message that resonates no matter the time of year.

The role of expert medical practitioners is especially important given the latest projections on Alzheimer’s. Roughly 5.1 million people had Alzheimer’s in 2015, and that number is expected to grow 40 percent to 7.1 million in the next decade, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

How can professional caregivers and families help people with Alzheimer’s and dementia? Because these conditions frequently impede our ability to communicate with each other, the Alzheimer’s Association suggests several approaches that can support your loved one in need.

First, show you care by listening. People with Alzheimer’s can have difficulty remembering the right word to use, so they need to know you are patient. Instead of interrupting your loved one or trying to visit in a noisy place, go somewhere quiet that can help him or her focus.

Second, say something encouraging. It can be tempting to argue or correct someone who has used an incorrect word or phrase, but this is not conducive to building a strong relationship with someone who has Alzheimer’s. You might even try guessing the word they are trying to say.

Finally, use unspoken or nonverbal cues. Facial expressions and the emotions behind words can help you understand everything you need to know to help your loved one.

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, remember to say thank you to your care providers. Together, we can provide the best quality of life possible for the people we love most.