Communicating with a loved one who has dementia can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. The journey of dementia is a difficult one for both the person who has it and the people they love. It can be discouraging, but with positive attitudes, patience, understanding, empathy, good communication skills, and a little creativity, any conversation can be successful with someone who has this disease.
1. Use Nonverbal Communication
Don’t assume that just because your loved one can’t speak coherently that she or he doesn’t understand what’s going on around them. Pay attention to their body language and facial expressions, as it will help you gauge how well they are processing what you’re saying or asking of them. For example, if your loved one is hesitant about something, avoids eye contact, appears confused or scared, becomes agitated, and appears unresponsive, it’s an excellent indication that they do not understand what you ask of them hence the need to explain more.
2. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
If your loved one is acting confused or upset, it may be because you have lost their attention. In this case, it’s best to try everything mentioned above before trying anything else. In some cases, though, confusion and agitation may indicate that something you said did not make sense to them. It could mean that there was a word or even phrase that didn’t register with your loved one, and thus she/he doesn’t understand the whole idea behind what you’re saying. A helpful strategy in these cases is repeating yourself while slightly changing up the order in which you say things or by replacing certain words or phrases. You can also try using different words that convey the same meaning but are easier for your loved one to understand.
3. Avoid Making Assumptions
When communicating with someone who has dementia, it’s best not to assume anything. Don’t assume that just because you found them in the kitchen at 2 p.m., they’re hungry and want lunch or if they went outside wearing their jacket, they must be cold, or if you tell them it is time to go somewhere, they will understand where and when. These missed cues can lead to frustration on both ends of the conversation, derailing most conversations before either person gets very far. Always try your best to ask questions before you assume anything.
4. Contact Dementia Certified Experts for Assistance
If you have tried everything mentioned above and still are unsure how to communicate with your loved one, it’s best to contact dementia certified expert. A social worker or other dementia care professional can provide you with insight into what may be happening, why it is occurring, and tips on handling difficult situations.
A stress-free environment where everyone gets along well is what we all want. The experts can help you with some issues that can arise, which should be handled tactfully.
Communicating with a loved one who has dementia can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. By using nonverbal communication, repeating yourself, avoiding making assumptions, and contacting dementia certified experts for assistance, you can help make communication easier and less stressful for both of you.