Watching a loved one struggle with dementia is extremely challenging and heartbreaking at times. It can pose many challenges along the way including mood swings, changes in personality, and the decline of memory, and decision-making skills. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability, sometimes severe enough to interfere with daily life. While dementia is troublesome, there are multiple ways to help your loved one by finding a unique way to communicate with them. When it comes to dealing with someone who has dementia it’s all about setting the tone, making them feel comfortable, and trying to remain positive. Here are some tips to communicate efficiently with someone who has dementia.
Nobody likes to be excluded in a conversation and just because your loved one is struggling with communication and memory issues doesn't mean you shouldn’t include them in conversations. Whether it’s a casual conversation between a group of friends, family, or even medical staff, try to make a point in including them. Even if the person struggling with dementia does not understand what you are saying, chances are they can still read body language and cues. Including everyone in the conversation decreases isolation, feeling undervalued, and poor mood.
Find the right spot
Too many distractions, such as loud background noises, large groups, and even poor lighting can overwhelm someone who is dealing with dementia and make conversations more difficult. Try to find a quiet place with minimal distractions, turn off background noises if possible, and allow yourself plenty of time to communicate and be patient with the individual. Here are some additional tips from the Alzheimer’s Society:
- ✓ Speak clearly and calmly
- ✓ Speak at a slower pace and allow time for your loved one to process what you are saying without interruption
- ✓ Use short, simple sentences
- ✓ Try to use a conversational tone rather than asking a lot of questions
- ✓ Limit choices if you are asking questions
- ✓ Rephrase rather than repeat. If your loved-one does not understand what you are saying, consider pointing to an object or even using gestures to get your point across.
Effective communication in any relationship is all about give-and-take, so listening is a key component. Even though the person who is going through dementia might not clearly make sense, it’s crucial to let them express their feelings and be there for them.
- ♥ Listen and offer encouragement when needed.
- ♥ Try not to dismiss the individual’s worry or concerns.
- ♥ Allow the person ample time to respond as it might take longer for them to process what you are saying.
- ♥ Resist the temptation to speak on their behalf, put words in their mouth, or interrupt.
- ♥ If the person is having difficulty finding the right words, ask them to explain their point in a different way. Sometimes it’s only one word they are trying to get past.
- ♥ Similar to using images in books to tell the story, try to let the person’s body language assist you in what they are trying to say.
As an individual continues to decline and communication falters with dementia, body language will only become a more effective tool to rely on. Learning the cues when it comes to not only their body language but how they read yours will be key.
- ★ Make sure your body language and expressions convey what you want to say.
- ★ A gentle reassurance in the form of hand-holding, or a pat on the back when appropriate can be of great comfort to someone who is confused.
- ★ Try not to stand over a person (if they are in bed) to communicate with them. Instead, get down to their level and make eye contact.
- ★ Sudden tense movements, negative facial expressions or negative body language may cause the person to become upset or distressed and can make communication even more difficult.
At Maple Manor Christian Home we know dealing with dementia can be a difficult road. Our mission is to provide outstanding care for residents. We describe our brand of care like this: Compassionate, Affectionate, Respectful and Enthusiastic. We strive to provide a homelike environment and to develop relationships with our residents and family members. Family and friends are always welcome and encouraged to visit frequently. Visit us online, email or call us today (812) 246-4866.