Aim. To explore the perceptions of loneliness according to people with early-stage dementia, living in community and long-term care and also the views of their family carers. Background. Research that specifically explores the influence of loneliness on dementia is limited and indicates the prevalence of loneliness and the negative relationship between loneliness and cognitive decline. There is a paucity of research that explores loneliness from the perspective of the person with dementia. Design. A descriptive exploratory qualitative approach was used. Methods. Data were collected through semi-structured audio-taped interviews. A purposive sample of 70 people with a diagnosis or probable dementia and 73 family carers were recruited from community and long-term care from South East Queensland, Australia. Results. Four themes were identified: staying connected to others; losing the ability to socially engage; experiencing loneliness; and overcoming loneliness. The results emphasise the importance of familiar human relationships in reducing the feelings of loneliness in people experiencing dementia. Conclusions. People with dementia are at risk of loneliness, but placing them with unfamiliar people and environments may not improve their situation.