Abstract Introduction People living with dementia in nursing homes have complex needs; impairments in cognition, communication, and daily function; neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS); and poor quality of life (QoL). The current study examines impairments in non‐verbal communication as a potential driver of NPS and QoL. Methods One hundred nursing home residents with dementia were assessed using the Emory Dyssemia Index (EDI), Neuropsychiatric Inventory Nursing Home version (NPI‐NH), Quality of Life in Alzheimer's Disease (QoL‐AD) at baseline, 12‐, and 24‐week follow‐up. Results The quantile regression (0.5) model indicated that impairment of non‐verbal communication was independently associated with the severity of NPS (P = .001) and proxy reported QoL (P < .05), levels of agitation (P < .05), and professional caregiver burden (P < .05). Discussion These results highlight a novel potential approach to improve NPS and QoL using retained elements of non‐verbal communication, particularly for people with severe dementia.