Dementia can affect a person’s ability to speak and communicate their needs, which is a big challenge for the person and their loved ones, often causing frustration. No one is born knowing how to best communicate with a person with dementia, but we can learn some helpful tips. Always try to remember that your loved ones brain might be slower at processing information and gathering thoughts to communicate.
- Gain their attention
When speaking try to limit distractions and noises, make sure you have their full attention, address them by name, identify yourself by name/relation, and maintain eye contact.
- Keep a positive mood
Keep a pleasant tone when speaking to your loved one, maintain good body language, use facial expressions, a good tone of voice, and physical touch to convey your message and show your affection.
- Listen with all you have
Give your loved one proper time to express themselves and stay patient waiting for their reply. Avoid rushing them or finishing their sentences. Note non-verbal cues like gestures, facial expressions, movement and posture.
- Ask simple questions
Ask only one question at a time, preferably requiring yes or no answers. Don’t ask open-ended questions or give too many choices.
- Break activities into steps
Try to encourage your loved one to do what they can, remind them of any steps they forget and only assist when they are no longer able to accomplish it on their own.
- Have a clear message
Speak slowly and distinctly, use simple words, and a reassuring tone. If your loved one doesn’t understand, repeat yourself or wait a few minutes before rephrasing.
- Keep your sense of humor
Those with dementia usually retain their social skills and would enjoy laughing along with you.
- Remember the past
Many people with dementia might not have a short term memory but can recall clearly many years ago. It can be soothing for them to remember the past.
- Respond with affection and reassurance
Your loved one might feel confused, anxious, or unsure of themselves. Avoid convincing them they are wrong but instead focus on the feelings they have and provide them the reassurance and support they need.
Working to improve your communication skills with your loved one will help make caregiving less stressful and is likely to improve your relationship.