Communicating with someone that has dementia is not something everyone knows how to do, but it is certainly something we can practice and become better at. Improving our communication skills with those suffering from dementia will also make caring for them less stressful and will hopefully improve the quality of the relationship. Knowing some of the signs of dementia, and how to better communicate with them will enhance the ability to handle any difficult behavior that may arise as you care for someone with dementia
Positive moods for positive interactions
Like most communication, attitude and body language play an integral part in how information is processed. It is important to lay a foundation for a positive interaction by speaking to a loved one in a pleasant and respectful manner. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and even physical touch can help better establish a connection and steer the interaction in a positive direction. Limit distractions and grab attention
In order to ensure a positive interaction, make sure there are minimal distractions at play. What may seem like just a minor noise to you, such as the TV in the background, can make it difficult for someone suffering from dementia to properly understand what you are trying to convey. Switching contexts too quickly can leave them disoriented and maybe even frustrated. Before speaking, make sure you have their attention and that you’ve addressed them by their name, and identified yourself as well. Try to be on the same level and establish eye contact to ensure you have their attention.
Be Clear, Be Concise
Be sure to speak slowly and clearly. Enunciate your words so that there’s less room for misunderstanding. Try not to raise your voice if it seems as though they cannot hear you, and ensure you have their attention before you repeat yourself. If they do not seem to understand you, try repeating yourself using the same words. If, after a few minutes they do not seem to understand, try to rephrase the question and be sure to use actual names of people and places as opposed to using pronouns such as he, she, or they.
Simple Questions for Simple Answers
Be sure to only ask one question at a time. We don’t want to overload their processing or give too many unknown variables. Hold off on asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices. For example, instead of asking “Which shirt would you like to wear today?”, ask “Would you like to wear your blue shirt or your white shirt?” When asking these questions, it is advised to offer visual aids and cues to help clarify your question and guide them to a response. Compassion is the Mission
When approaching an interaction with someone with dementia, it is best to always keep compassion at the forefront of your mind. Try not to go into discussions in a rushed or frustrated manner. Approach the interaction with the full breadth of your eyes, ears, and your heart. Be patient in waiting for responses and be gentle when offering suggestions if they are struggling for an answer. Be on the lookout for nonverbal cues and body language and strive to listen for deeper meaning and feelings underneath any words.
Step by Step
When it comes to activities it is best to break them down into a series of steps. This makes tasks much more manageable for your loved one. Instead of saying “We need to leave to the store in 30 minutes. Get ready” say “First, go upstairs and choose one of the two outfits laid out for you. Second. wash up and do your hair. Lastly, we will go to the store when you’re ready.” Be sure to encourage your loved one to do what they can, and gently remind them of the steps they might tend to forget. Visual cues are very important here as well. If you are explaining how to do something, be sure to show , not just tell.
Caring for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia isn’t easy and not everyone can be the best caregiver all the time. That's why Christian Companions strives to offer caregiving services that help loved ones get the care they deserve as well as give aid and assistance to caregivers like you.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today if you or a loved one could benefit from one of our amazing in-home caregiving services.