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Communicating with a Person with Dementia

May 30, 2018

One of the bigger challenges of dementia is that it can affect a person’s ability to speak and communicate their needs.  This challenge can make is so frustrating for the person and their loved ones. We aren’t born knowing how to best communicate with a person with dementia, but can learn using some of these helpful tips. Try to remember that your loved ones brain may be slower in processing information and gathering thoughts to communicate.

  1. Gain their attention
    Limit distractions and noises. When speaking make sure you have their full attention, address them by name, identify yourself by name/relation, and maintain eye contact.
  2. Keep a positive mood
    Speak to your loved in one a pleasant tone, maintain good body language, use facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch to convey your message and show your affection.
  3. Listen with all you have
    Give your loved one time to express themselves and be patient in waiting for their reply. Do not rush them or finish their sentences. Take notice of non-verbal cues like gestures, facial expressions, movement and posture.
  4. Ask simple questions
    Only ask one question at a time, preferably with yes or no answers. Avoid asking open-ended questions or giving too many options.
  5. Break activities into steps
    Encourage your loved one to do what they can, remind them of steps they forget and assist when they are no longer able to accomplish on their own.
  6. Have a clear message
    Speak slowly, use simple words, speak distinctly and use a reassuring tone. If your loved one doesn’t understand, repeat yourself if necessary or wait a few minutes before rephrasing.
  7. Keep your sense of humor
    People with dementia usually keep their social skills and would enjoy laughing along with you.
  8. Remember the past
    Many with dementia might not remember short term but can clearly recall many years ago. Remembering the past can help to sooth them.
  9. Respond with affection and reassurance
    Your loved one might feel anxious, confused or unsure of themselves. Try not to convince them they are wrong but rather focus on the feelings they have and provide them reassurance and support.
  10. Distract and redirect if needed
    If your loved one gets agitated or upset, try switching the subject or environment to calm them down.

Working to improve your communication skills will help make caregiving less stressful and is likely to improve your relationship with your loved one.  

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