For a family member or caregiver in charge of someone with dementia, one will quickly realize the importance of dementia communication strategies. Someone diagnosed with dementia will experience a loss of communication skills as the disease progresses. This is tragic because all human beings rely on communication to express their thoughts and feelings to others. And without it, the dementia patient suffers from confusion, frustration, and a sense of loneliness. In order to combat this, it is crucial to know how to communicate with someone who has dementia. This post will offer you some strategies and tips to make your time with your loved ones meaningful.
Different Stages of Dementia Communication
To define some of the best dementia communication strategies, we must first understand what is happening to the patient. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the patient is quite responsive, yet they may repeat stories or have difficulty finding the right words. It is very important to not make any assumptions about the individual, as everyone has their own unique experiences. Don’t exclude them from the conversation because you don’t think they will be able to follow along and “get it.” Sometimes, it may take someone with dementia a bit longer to respond, but this is okay. Half of the communication is speaking, and the other half is listening, so don’t interrupt them.
The middle stage of the disease will require a better understanding of dementia communication strategies from you. This stage requires more direct care. The final stage of Alzheimer’s disease may last for several years, but around-the-clock care is often required. Despite what stage your loved one or patient is in, it is important to remember that there will be good days and bad days. The following dementia communication strategies and tips will help you make the most out of the experience.
Dementia Communication Strategies that Really Work:
- Speak naturally in a friendly voice.
- Communicate non-verbally when you can, including pointing and gesturing with your hands. Make bold facial expressions as you speak to convey emotion.
- Bring in physical photos and/or show photos on your cell phone. Your loved one or patient will love to see what you have been up to.
- Remember that your presence is the most important. It’s ok if you don’t have amazing news to share.
- Point out what you are talking about. Or physically set the thing you are talking about right in front of them.
- Maintain eye contact to show that you are focused on what they are saying.
- Written notes can also be helpful.
- Validate their feelings.
- If they get upset, acknowledge their feelings, and suggest moving to a new location.
- Speak in a quiet place with minimal distractions.
Communication Over the Phone:
- Speak in a friendly, upbeat tone.
- Repeat your own name and the names you are talking about often.
- Only stick to one topic. Or one topic at a time with breaks in between.
- Keep the conversation simple and direct.
- Give your loved one or patient extra time to respond. If they are struggling to find a word, you may derail their thought process by jumping in to try and help.
- A patient or loved one suffering from dementia may have an easier time reminiscing about something that happened twenty years ago, compared to something that happened twenty minutes ago. If they bring up a topic, go along with it, and cherish the time spent talking about “the good old days.”
How to Ask Questions:
- Only ask one question at a time.
- Ask yes or no questions. For example, “Did you eat chicken or pasta for lunch?” rather than “What did you eat for lunch?” Even if the event just happened, questions may be the cause of great frustration. This gets even tougher when the question is open-ended.
- Focus on only using simple sentences with familiar words.
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Don’t show anger or frustration if you don’t get a response. Demonstrate patience.
- Avoid correcting or arguing.
Do you care for someone with dementia? Share your winning strategies, tips, and pointers with us in the comments.