Communicating with a loved one with dementia can be extremely difficult for everyone involved, leaving both parties frustrated and upset. That’s why you must find the right approach that works for both of you.
With many different ways you can address communication with your loved one, you may feel like it’s a matter of trial and error – so try not to get disheartened. It’s important to remember that what works for one person with dementia may not work for another, but each method you try takes you closer to more meaningful communication.
With this in mind, Stewart Mcginn, managing director at Baycroft Care Homes, has provided some tips and strategies to help you communicate with your loved ones living with dementia:
Simplify your language choice
Simplify your choice of language, try to make your sentences more concise and avoid asking open-ended questions. For example, ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no, to make it easier for your loved one to reply.
A clear and positive delivery
It’s also important to ensure that your speech is delivered slowly, clearly and at a volume that is easy to hear to avoid confusion. It’s also a good idea to maintain eye contact when speaking and use a gentle and positive tone of voice to help your loved one feel at ease.
Make sure to give your family member or friend time to respond to your questions, even if they are repeating themselves or taking a while to respond. They must not feel rushed or interrupted, as this can pressure them.
Listen actively and rephrase
By listening actively, you can address if your loved one is struggling with the question you have asked. If they aren’t responding, you can repeat the question back to them or try to rephrase the question in an easier way to understand.
Acknowledge what they say
Sometimes your family member or friend suffering from dementia might say something that seems out of context to your conversation; it is still important to acknowledge what they have said and encourage them to tell you more about their response.
Remember that communication doesn’t have to mean conversation. Sometimes non-verbal cues can mean more to someone than words. This can include facial expressions and hand gestures or physical touch, like holding their hand, putting an arm around their shoulder, or hugging them to provide comfort and make them feel safe and loved.
Use visual aids
Visual aids are a great way to encourage communication if a conversation is difficult. This can include anything from photographs, mementoes, written letters and familiar objects to help your loved one understand you.
Create a distraction-free environment
Try to have your conversations in a familiar, distraction-free, and quiet space where your loved one can focus on your communication. Visual clutter, loud noise or new spaces can be overwhelming and make concentrating increasingly difficult.