Communicating with Someone Who Has Dementia

There are few more dispiriting experiences than losing someone you love. Relationship with family and friends makes up one of the great universal emotional refuges. Seeking this refuge through communicating with someone who has dementia can be agonizing.

Our loved ones experience a communication gap when they have difficulty expressing themselves, makes inappropriate comments, gets frustrated easily, or becomes forgetful. At the same time, you may begin to have trouble communicating with your loved one as their behaviour and personality change. What do you say? You should you act? How can you find the right words?

Run the Conversation

For starters, you want to do everything possible to shift the onus of the conversation from them to you—that is, you have to try and make it easier on your loved one. No matter how much difficulty you may experience in your own right, you can rest assured that it’s all the more difficult on them. Set the tone with warm and inviting words, gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. Do not take offense if your loved one responds with frustration, anger, sadness, or sarcasm. Do not show your disappointment if your loved one no longer acts or talks as they did in the past.

Be Clear and Precise

You can make communication easier for your loved one by speaking in short, precise sentences. You don’t want to condescend or talk down to them, but simply be clear, precise, and direct. At the same time, you have to keep a warm and gentle tone. That might be difficult at times, given the severe frustration that can arise from such conversations. Even so, do your best to keep your calm and project a welcoming attitude.

Don’t Overburden Your Loved One

When giving instructions, you’ll want to be not just clear and concise, but also give instructions one at a time so as not to overburden them. If you must, change your tone and pace of speech to suit their needs—for example, if they can’t keep up, you may need to speak more slowly. Finally, you should not underestimate the value and effectiveness of nonverbal communication. Nonverbal expressions like smiling and nodding can communicate a lot, while you can give more precise instructions with pointing and waving.

All this and more can help you communicate with someone who has dementia. Hopefully, you can take this advice and put it to good use to brighten someone’s day—remember, every little bit, every little moment, every little smile can be huge when shared with a loved one.

If you would like to learn more about communicating with someone who has dementia or would like to explore our options for dementia care in Ottawa, call Qualicare Family Homecare at 613.366.2899.

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