Communicating with someone who has dementia can be a challenge. Dementia affects a person’s memory and ability to take in new information, process it, and respond. So, a conversation with a dementia patient needs to be handled with patience and tact.
Talking to a loved one who has developed dementia can be incredibly challenging. Not only are you dealing with the communication problem, but you will also be coping with the feeling that you have lost the person that you love.
However, it is crucial to remember that dementia patients need to connect with other people. While it may not always be apparent, the person with dementia will appreciate the effort you make to communicate with them. Here are ten tips to help you connect with a person who has dementia.
- Choose a Quiet Setting
A dementia patient may find it difficult to process what is going on around them. If you attempt to hold a conversation in a crowded or noisy room, the person you are trying to communicate with may get easily distracted or even disoriented with their present location, be it . If you choose a quiet setting with few distractions, the person you are talking to will find it far easier to focus on what you say.
- Use Body Language
A person living with dementia may find it a challenge to follow a conversation. However, people with dementia are usually still good at picking up on body language and mood. Make eye contact when you are talking and use facial expressions to reinforce what you are saying. Use a respectful, caring tone when you are talking.
- Use Simple Language
You do not need to shout to make a dementia patient understand what you are saying. However, it may be helpful if you keep your sentences short and your language simple. If the person you are talking to does not respond immediately, allow some time for them to process what you have said. If they still do not appear to have understood you, try repeating what you said using the same words again. Using simple language will make it easier for the individual to understand you. However, you do not need to talk to someone with dementia in the same way you might a child.
People with dementia can get confused and frightened. They are often very unsure of themselves, and they may need reassurance. Sometimes, a person may become agitated or angry if they make a mistake or forget something. If the person you are trying to connect with does show signs of being confused or frightened, reassure them with words, facial expressions, and touch. Holding hands or a hug, for example, may help make the person feel safe.
- Ask Questions that Have Simple Answers
Questions that have simple yes or no answers will be better than open-ended questions. Telling the person what their choices are will help as well. Instead of asking someone what they want to eat, ask them if they would prefer chicken or fish. Sometimes visual aids will help, too. When you ask the person if they want chicken or fish, show them the two options.
- Keep a Sense of Humor
People with dementia do not lose their sense of humor. They may not understand a long-winded joke, but they will still enjoy a good laugh. So, while you must be patient and respectful when you talk to someone with dementia, you do not need to be too serious about everything. It is essential to remember that the person you are talking to is still the person you have always loved. They might be slower on the uptake, but their sense of humor will still be the same as it ever was.
- Don’t Jump the Gun
It is ok to help a person living with dementia remember something, or help them finish a sentence. However, it would be best to be patient and give them time to do it themselves first. It may take some time for the person to process what you have said and form an answer. If you keep jumping in too soon, you will confuse and irritate the person.
- Avoid Criticizing or Correcting
A person with dementia is likely to make mistakes. They may misunderstand what you have said. They may get the present confused with the past or get their facts wrong. It is generally best not to criticize or correct a person with dementia, though, and you should certainly not argue with them. Instead, try to understand the meaning of what the person is trying to tell you.
- Reminisce About the Old Days
Going back to the good old days is very reassuring for a person with dementia. They may not remember what happened yesterday. But, with a bit of prompting, a dementia patient will likely have clear memories of when they were younger. So, talk about events from the past that will bring back happy memories, and listen patiently even if you have heard the story many times before. Consult with a memory care professional if you require any assistance.
- Don’t Force a Conversation
It can be tempting to try to force a person with dementia to have a conversation with you. But it would help if you allowed the person to go at their own pace. If you fire off too many questions and raise too many topics, you will confuse them. Often just being there with them is all a person with dementia needs.
To sum up, when you talk to a person with dementia, it is best to be patient and keep the questions simple. Avoid using long sentences and give the person plenty of time to respond. And most importantly, never forget that, even though they may be harder to communicate with, the person you have always known is still right there with you.