5 Tips for Improving Communication with a Loved One with Dementia
Dementia is a debilitating disease that impacts roughly 50 million people, mostly senior citizens.
Among the hallmarks of living with dementia is that the senior has a decreased ability to communicate. This can mean not only that, in late-stage dementia, the person loses the ability to speak coherently, but their abilities to understand what’s being said to them diminishes.
If someone in your life suffers from dementia, here are 5 tips to help you communicate more effectively for longer:
Know the Stage
Communication issues inevitably get worse as your loved one’s dementia progresses.
Early-stage dementia patients may have difficulty following conversations or remembering details, and even may experience problems with word recall. Those suffering from late-stage dementia may be completely non-verbal and may not seem to track even simple conversations.
Knowing how far your loved one’s dementia has progressed and their current communication capabilities is helpful to finding a productive approach to any conversation.
Check Your Surroundings
To help you have the most success with your conversation, you need to set the stage for optimal conditions.
Find a quiet place to have a conversation, preferably one that’s well-lit. Minimize distractions, including the TV or radio, or any other people who may be talking. This allows your loved one to better focus their mental energy on the conversation instead of following what’s going on on the TV.
When you speak, do your best to get down on the same level as your loved one, and make sure your face is as well-lit as possible. This helps to grab your loved one’s attention, and signals to them that they’re being talked to and they should try to pay attention.
When you speak, avoid any “baby talk” or using a voice that has too much varied inflection. Do your best to remain calm, even if you’re upset, and keep your voice as measured as possible. This keeps your loved one from feeling scared or guarded from the outset, increasing the chances they’ll be able to listen.
In addition, use names as much as possible instead of pronouns. Rather than saying, “He had to leave,” say, “Jim had to leave.” This helps your loved one better make the connection between the person being spoken about.
Also, speak slowly and leave a little extra space between words and sentences than you would when talking to someone who doesn’t have dementia. This gives your loved one a chance to “catch up” on the conversation and better process what’s being said.
Limit the Conversation
People with dementia have difficulty tracking conversations, and this is especially true if a conversation covers more than one topic.
When talking with your loved one, do your best to only discuss one topic at a time. This increases the chances they’ll be able to follow along and participate instead of just listening.
Your conversation isn’t likely to get very far – and will end in frustration on both sides – if you spend the whole time correcting every little inaccuracy or misstatement your loved one makes.
Instead, stick to the heart of the conversation and let some things slide.
Additionally, don’t try to rush the conversation. You may need to repeat some things more than once in order for your loved one to keep track, or spend some extra time waiting for an answer to your question. That’s OK.
What’s most important is that you help your loved one have a conversation they feel they can actively participate in, even if that means that it takes a little longer or not everything they say is completely correct.
Experienced Dementia Care in Maryland
Having a loved one who suffers from dementia can be a frightening and lonely experience, especially if your loved one lives alone. Thanks to the skilled care providers at Advanced Nursing and Home Support, your loved one can still live at home but receive the support they need to live a safe, fulfilling life. Our care providers are highly trained and skilled in caring for those with dementia, so you can rest easy knowing your loved one is in good hands. Call today for care tomorrow!