Communication and Dementia

Communication and DementiaWatching a parent, spouse, or loved one deteriorate because of Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia is indescribably painful. What starts are impairment eventually transforms into a disease that compromises the very individuality of the person we love.

For many people, this makes it incredibly difficult to communicate with people who struggle with dementia. Just because communication is difficult, does not mean that it is impossible. It is possible to connect to a loved one who has dementia on an emotional level. If you know someone who has moderate to severe dementia, these are tips on how to communicate.

  • There are good and bad days – There is no denying that people with dementia are traditionally on a downward decline. However, there are good and bad days. Recognizing this is going to make it easier for you to communicate with someone who has dementia.
  • Make sure to have patience – It is important that you give people time to respond. You need to offer some additional time for them to process what you say. While it is understandable that you may become frustrated, it is important that you do not let this get the better of you.
  • Do not nitpick – If you try to correct every inaccurate statement that your loved one makes, chances are that your conversation is not likely to get far. Sometimes it is important to shrug things off.
  • Be an active listener – Politely let the person know if you do not understand something that they are telling you.
  • Use your nonverbal cues – This will help facilitate understanding and put your loved one at ease. One example would be to smile and maintain eye contact. It is important that you get in the habit of this now, especially because nonverbal communication may be the only option available when dementia is very advanced
  • Only talk about one thing at a time – Someone who is living with dementia may not be able to follow a conversation with multiple threads. Keep conversations basic, focused on one thing at a time.
  • Refer to people by their names – Pronouns such as “they,” “he,” and “she” should be avoided during conversation. When greeting a loved one with dementia, it is important to use names. Instead of saying “Hi! It’s me…” it is important that you greet someone with your name.
  • Use a warm and calm voice – When people are having a hard time understanding us, we might resort to “baby talk” or any other type of condescending communication. It is important that you continue to speak clearly and do not resort to that level of communication.
  • Avoid distractions – You do not want a great deal of distractions present when you are talking to someone with dementia. Not having any outside distractions allows people to have their focus and mental energy on the conversation.

Realize what you are up against

It is important to understand that dementia will get worse over time. People will have a hard time communicating in general and gradually have a more difficult time understanding others. While it is not something that you may want to recognize, it is important that you be aware of it.

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