Witnessing a loved one’s deterioration into dementia is very painful. As they move further into the disease, you see minor issues like random forgetfulness give way to sever impairment. As their individuality recedes, it is important to maintain good communication with them. This connection can help them get through the adverse condition they are laboring under.
Communication Strategies For Dementia
A very unfortunate result of dementia is that it significantly reduces a person from their former selves. But they are far from “empty shells”, and can be their best for fleeting moments, however rare. You need to use the right techniques to get through to them, and connect emotionally.
Tips On How To Communicate With Dementia Patients
- Know what you are dealing with. Keep track of how far they have regressed into the condition, and how much more difficult has it gotten for them to understand others.
- Find a place without distractions before starting a conversation with them. This gives your loved one the chance to focus their mind on the topic at hand, and to be reassured by your presence.
- Speak in a clear and natural voice. Do not condescend to them in any way.
- Make sure to speak names instead of pronouns. For instance, greet them as ‘Grandma’ or ‘Grandpa’, and say your name instead of just ‘it’s me’.
- Keep the conversation simple. Talk about one thing at a time, because dementia patients usually find it hard to flit between topics.
- Non-verbal cues are important. Maintain eye contact, and smile to put them at ease and make it easier for them to understand. Advanced dementia may sometimes make this the only way to communicate with them.
- Listen to them. If you don’t understand something they are trying to tell you, let them know.
- Be patient with them. Give them the time to process what you just said, and let them take a minute to respond to a question. Frustration serves no purpose here, and can upset them if you let it get the better of you.
- Don’t expect it to be good going all the time. They will have their bad days, similar to most healthy people you know.
Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers have a delicate mental disposition, and need more care and affection as they weather their condition. Try to find new ways to surmount the obstacles in communication, and above all, make them feel loved and cared for.