Tips for Communicating to People with Dementia
Dementia can affect people in different and unique ways so it’s important to remember that, depending on the individual, not every tip to communicating to people with dementia may always be helpful. Use the tips that you feel will work best.
Tips for Communicating to People with Dementia
Before you engage in communication, first listen carefully and think about what you’re going to say and how you’ll say it. It will help if you try to imagine yourself struggling to communicate. Then, try using these tips for communicating to people with dementia.
- Setting – A calm and quiet setting is much better to communicate in than a busy, noisy environment that makes it harder for people with dementia to concentrate. Also control the environment as best you can by turning off background noise such as a TV, and turning on lights or opening window coverings so the environment has the best lighting.
- Be patient and plan enough time to spend with the individual. If you feel rushed or stressed than more than likely so will the person you’re trying to communicate with. If you recognize the person with dementia is getting stressed or frustrated than try to calm the situation. If you need to, take some time to let the person calm down.
- If the person becomes tired easily, then short, regular conservations may be better.
- Think about previous conversations you have had with the person and what techniques helped you before and try to use the same approach. If there is a time of day where the person is able to communicate more clearly, try to use this time to communicate.
- If you are not sure what to talk about, try to think about what you might talk about. Often times a person’s environment can be helpful like anything they can see, hear or touch might be of interest such as a photo.
- If the person prefers reading, try using written materials.
- Check to see if the person’s other needs are met before you start communicating such as seeing if they are hungry or if they’re in any pain. Address those needs first before trying to have a conversation.
- Finally, and this is a given, make sure you have the person’s full attention before you start.
Tips for Listening to People with Dementia
- Listen carefully to what the individual is saying and offer encouragement both verbally and non-verbally. Active listening, for example by making eye contact and nodding can help improve communication.
- Watch the body language. The expression on their face and the way they hold themselves can alert you to how they are feeling.
- If you didn’t understood what the person has said, ask them to repeat it. If you are still unclear, rephrase their answer to check your understanding of what they meant. If the person with dementia has difficulty finding the right word or finishing a sentence, ask them to explain it in a different way. Listen and look out for clues. If they cannot find the word for a particular object, ask them to describe it instead.
- Allow the person plenty of time to respond – it may take them longer to process the information and work out their response. Try not to interrupt the person, even to help them find a word or finish a sentence as it can break the pattern of communication and cause frustration with the person.
- If the person is upset, let them express their feelings. Allow them the time that they need, and try not to dismiss their worries. Sometime the best thing to do is just listen and show that you are care.
Tips on How to Communicate to People with Dementia
- Position yourself so you can see and hear you as clearly as possible and try to be at eye-level rather than standing over them. Be as close to the person as is comfortable for you both.
- Include the person in conversations with others. It is important not to speak as though they are not there. Being included can help them to keep their sense of identity, dignity and know they are valued.
- Prompts can help, for instance pointing at a photo of someone or encouraging the person to hold and interact with an object you are talking about.
- Show respect and avoid speaking sharply or raising your voice.
- Communicate clearly and calmly and at slightly slower than usual if the person is struggling to follow you and use short, simple sentences. Don’t talk to the person as if they were a child. Allow time for the person time to process information. Be patient and show them the respect and dignity that you would want for yourself.
There will be good days and bad days. Take advantage of good days and find ways to overcome the more difficult ones. Depending on the individuals day, severity of their dementia, it may not always be possible to have an effective conversation.
Remember there are resources to help. When you or a loved one need an extra hand, count on us to be there for you when you need us.
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CIRCLE OF CARE, LLC
Cheri Platte is a home care expert and a professional consultant for family caregivers. She has been a compassionate advocate for the elderly for over 20 years now. As the Managing Director for Circle of Care, she focuses on providing excellent and high-quality home care solutions for families who care for their loved ones.
Her mission is to educate the public on the benefits of home care and home health, assist families in developing individual care plans, and help them plan for the advanced stages of aging, emphasizing on what matters most in terms of quality of life for the loved one. The company culture enables Circle of Care to hire and retain hundreds of professional care team members who are skilled and compassionate and produces a word-of-mouth referral network in the Southern California communities they serve. They are trusted by families, doctors, nurses, social workers, hospitals, nursing homes, senior communities, Long Term Care Specialists and other esteemed members of the healthcare industry. When not helping families in need, Cheri spends time mentoring other business owners and rising professionals plus volunteering at various organizations.