Cue Cards or Communication Cards are visual tools that can be used to overcome communication difficulties with clients living with dementia. They assist and support caregivers, staff and volunteers to engage with the person in their care.

Cue Cards or Communication Cards are visual tools that can be used to overcome communication difficulties with clients living in long term care organizations.

They assist and support caregivers, staff and volunteers to engage with the person in their care. Cue cards and visual prompts are beneficial for both staff and clients.

Who can benefit from Communication Cards?

Cue cards are especially useful for people living with advanced dementia, aphasia, anomia (difficulty in finding words), and other related conditions affecting communication. They are also useful for clients from non English speaking backgrounds who have reverted to speaking their own language.

Benefits of Cue Cards for Caregivers

For Activity and Clinical Staff caring for clients with advanced dementia, dialogue can at times become a frustrating guessing game. They must often rely on prompt cards and pictures, dry erase memo boards and other external aids to understand and care for them effectively.

Communication cue cards diminish the workload of caregivers by making the task easier and more pleasant (most of the time).

How to Make Cue Cards for the Elderly

Cue Cards are inexpensive to make and may be tailor-made to the needs of each individual. They are a feasible alternative to hi-tech, expensive tools.

  • Cue cards should be in black and white and with or without pictures depending on the individual.
  • Cue cards should be written in a large font (as large as the need be) so the individual is able to read them easily.
  • Cue Cards should contain words or short sentences.
  • Stick to one medium: stick figures, line drawings, cartoon-like, or pictures (Remember that people with advanced dementia are better off with black & white cue cards).
  • Laminate for endurance.

Separate Cue Cards into Categories

It is useful to separate communication cue cards into categories such as:

  • Activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, eating, toileting)
  • Emotions and feelings (angry, frustrated, depressed, sad)
  • Events, visitors, outings (anticipation, expectation, leisure)
  • Memory and cognition (confusion, recognition, anxiety, worry)
  • Empathy (support, legitimization, respect, partnership)

Cue Cards to Mitigate Uncooperative Behavior

Cue cards are useful in a variety of situations. For instance, often uncooperative behavior is due to unmet needs. It may be that they are bored because they forgot what they like to do – or that they forgot the way to the toilet.

Flashing a couple of possible reasons to the client may solve the problem. Show cue cards in order of emergency: toilet first and then going for a walk for instance.

Cue Cards to Help Clients Recognize Familiar Faces

When the client has problems recognizing familiar faces, show them cue cards of familiar photos for perusal to help them make the association. This is not always successful but should be attempted nevertheless.

Cue Cards to Influence Clients

Some nursing homes go even further by writing encouraging sentences on cue cards to influence the client. For example:

  • "Eating makes me healthy and strong"
  • "I am going to shower to feel warm and clean"
  • "I am going to the hairdresser because my visitors are coming soon"

Studies on the use of such cue cards have reported positive results when shown to clients prior to the desired activities (meals, shower, and visitors).

Use Simple Sentences & Illustrations on Cue Cards

If you have a Speech Therapist available at your facility ask them for clues on how to simplify sentences and illustrations. For instance, if you have a cue card with the word ‘Family’ show stick figures (Mother, father and child) walking in a park, or if you a show ‘Dentist’ show a stick figure leaning over another figure sitting on a chair or a tooth and dental tools, etc.

Cue Card Templates to Get Started With

Attached are some cue cards templates to get started with. These can be laminated and used as they are or enlarged to make individual flash cards.

Perhaps you can ask a volunteer to help you make cue cards to the specific needs of your clients.

Reminiscing Cards - More Themes for Cue Cards

  • Reminiscing Cards – 1940s and 1950s
  • Themed subjects: seasons, fishing, colours
  • Socializing and leisure
  • Music Memories
  • Christmas

Cue Cards should be personalized where possible

Whatever sort of cue cards you decide to use, ensure they are appropriate to your client’s condition and stage of dementia.

Some visual prompts can be shared however for best results, cue cards should be personalised and catered to the needs of individuals.

We'd love to hear your feedback.
Have you found cue cards to be useful with your clients?


Co.As.It Community Services Inc. 14th Jun 2016
Hi everyone, we have a great set of Italian language ones also available on our website which you can access for free. There are also many other resources available to share.
Michelle 17th May 2016
We are also looking at using these card for patients who have had strokes and MS and that is only the spectrum we have so far. We are going to speak to our colleagues in young adult services to see if any of their communication cards could be adapted to meet our needs and vice a versa
Talita 18th May 2016
What a great idea Michelle - even more applications for the cue cards we hadn't thought of. If we can help you in anyway to adapt them to different needs, let us know.
karen 13th May 2016
Great idea thanks can't wait to give it a try
Talita 11th May 2016
Thanks everyone! Yes great feedback - the communication cards are suitable for people with hearing impairment and those from non English speaking backgrounds.
Patrice 10th May 2016
This is great...Love the idea...Thank you for sharing.
Carol 10th May 2016
Not only for people who have dementia but people who have a hearing impairment, for people whose first language isn't English, perfect idea thank you, Well Done!
Heather 10th May 2016
Love this idea. Thanks for sharing.
Talita 10th May 2016
Thanks for all the feedback, it is very much appreciated!
JASHMINE 10th May 2016
perfect idea.....thank you
Bronwyn 10th May 2016
Perfect....Great resource!!
Amber 10th May 2016
This is great. I have found it hard to find good communication cards in the past but these are perfect. Well Done!
Elsa 10th May 2016
This is also quite helpful for people whose first language isn't english. We were just discussing this during our last meeting. Thank you very much for this!
Satomi 10th May 2016
Great. Thanks. Not only for people who have dementia but people who have hearing impairment would benefit from these cards. I'll talk to CNC and managers. Satomi