Dementia is not an easy thing to deal with. Many times diagnoses are unexpected and this can make it difficult for families to handle. When we take the time to adapt to our new situation, it can make life a lot more enjoyable and pleasant. Below are listed 10 steps you can take when communicating with someone who has dementia. Following these steps can make the lines of communication much more clear and understandable.
10 Tips For Dementia Communication Improvement
- Create a positive environment for conversation. Set a positive mood by speaking to your loved one in a pleasant and respectful manner. Use facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection. Avoid being short and impatient. This will only cause frustration and tension.
- Make sure the person is focused. Limit distractions and noise. Before speaking, make sure you have her attention; address her by name, identify yourself by name and relation, and use nonverbal cues and touch to help keep her focused.
- State your message clearly. Use simple words and sentences. Speak slowly, distinctly, and in a reassuring tone. Refrain from raising your voice higher or louder; instead, pitch your voice lower. If he or she doesn’t understand the first time, use the same wording to repeat your message or question. If she still doesn’t understand, wait a few minutes and rephrase the question.
- Ask simple, answerable questions. Ask one question at a time; those with yes or no answers work best. Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices.
- Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart. Be patient in waiting for your loved one’s reply. If he or she is struggling for an answer, it’s okay to suggest words. Watch for nonverbal cues and body language, and respond appropriately.
- Break down activities into a series of steps. This makes many tasks much more manageable. Using visual cues, such as showing him with your hand where to place the dinner plate, can be very helpful.
- When the going gets tough, distract and redirect. If your loved one becomes upset or agitated, try changing the subject or the environment.
- Respond with affection and reassurance. People with dementia often feel confused, anxious, and unsure of themselves. Further, they often get reality confused and may recall things that never really occurred. Avoid trying to convince them they are wrong.
- Remember the good old days. Remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. Therefore, avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, such as asking the person what they had for lunch. Instead, try asking general questions about the person’s distant past.
- Maintain your sense of humor. Use humor whenever possible, though not at the person’s expense. People with dementia tend to retain their social skills and are usually delighted to laugh along with you.
Learning to communicate with someone who has dementia may take a significant amount of time and practice. Once you have mastered the basics, it can become a lot easier for you and the person you are caring for. Here at Orchard at Brookhaven, we support our residents in as many ways as possible. We are always searching for new and best ways to communicate with each person. Please contact us today to learn more about our community!