How to Communicate With Someone Suffering from Dementia

12 Mar, 2019

Taking proper care of a loved one suffering from dementia hosts a huge number of challenges for the caregivers and family members. Individuals that suffer from dementia caused by Alzheimer’s or similar health conditions possess a biological brain disorder that is progressive, which makes it difficult for them to recall incidents, reflect clearly, communicate openly, and take appropriate care of themselves. Senior citizens often experience cognitive decline as they age, which induces dementia and other similar problems that can have a negative impact on their day to day lives. Additionally, individuals that have dementia may suffer from constant mood swings whilst also experiencing a change in their behavioral patterns and personality. In such cases, establishing effective communication and providing good dementia care might not be an easy task.

Strong and effective communication is one of the most crucial parts of effective dementia care. Learning the right skills needed to communicate with individuals suffering from dementia will make your caregiving journey a lot less stressful whilst enabling you to enhance your relationship with your loved ones. These tips will also help you learn how to effectively deal with the negative behavioral patterns of such individuals.

Here is a list of the practical ways that you can use to communicate with people suffering from dementia:

1. Setting the Right Mood

Your body language and attitude play an important role in communicating your feelings and have a stronger impact than the words you speak. Set the right tone and create a positive environment by interacting with them in a respectful and loving manner. Use the right tone of voice, facial expressions, and actions to convey your message and display your affection in an effective manner.

2. Getting their Attention

Eliminate any distractions and background noises to establish better communication. Turn off the TV, close the door as well as curtains, and move to a quieter place. Before you start speaking, ensure that you have all their attention. Call them by their name, address yourself and the relationship you share to avoid any confusions in the first place. Stay away from all sorts of non-verbal cues and if they aren’t paying much attention, touch them to improve their focus. Do not forget to maintain eye contact – as this is key to establishing better communication.

3. Keep Your Message Clear

Keep your sentences clear and use simple words. Speak in a gentle manner using a clear tone that is reassuring. Do not raise your voice, as the other person might feel intimidated. If they do not understand your message on the first try, repeat the same sentence in a gentle manner. If they still are not able to understand your message, try rephrasing your sentence and give them some time to contemplate your message. Instead of using pronouns, add in the names of the places and people to give them a clear picture of what you are talking about.

4. Keep Your Question Simple

Form simple questions that require one-word answers, for example, “Do you want to wear the red shirt or the yellow shirt?” Try avoiding open-ended questions, as these might turn out to be too difficult for them to answer. If they are having trouble answering the question, try offering visual prompts to clarify the question for them.

5. Keep Your Eyes, Ears and Heart Open

Patience is key when trying to communicate with individuals suffering from dementia. If they are struggling to find an answer, try suggesting some words to ease the process. Keep non-verbal cues at bay and respond in an appropriate and gentle manner. Most of all, try looking beneath the words to understand what they’re feeling and trying to communicate.

6. Distract the Individual if They Start Feeling Agitated

If the individual becomes irritated or frustrated, change the subject or environment to calm them down. Take them for a walk or ask them for their assistance, as this will help you in establishing a connection with them. Remember that it is important to understand their feelings in order to establish effective communication.

7. Remind them of the Good Times You Have Spent Together

Individuals suffering from dementia might not be able to recall what happened 50 minutes ago, but they have the ability to recall the past years and experiences. Therefore, do not ask questions relating to incidents that happened a while ago, instead ask questions related to their distant past – as they are likely to remember those incidents. Remind them of the good times you have spent with them, as this will prove to be quite a pleasing and soothing activity for them.

These tips will enable you to establish effective communication and offer exceptional dementia care to your loved ones suffering from this condition.