10 Tips for Communicating with a Person with Dementia

Disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Lewy Body are all forms of a condition known as Dementia. These diseases affect the brain resulting in loss of memory, problem-solving, and other thinking-related issues that are severe enough to alter your daily life. Many people diagnosed with Dementia are not able to properly care for themselves, so they have to rely on a spouse, family member, or in-home caregiver to help them in life.

This can be a big responsibility for someone who does not know how to communicate with a dementia patient correctly. As a leading provider of non-emergency medical transportation in Tulsa, we thought it might be good to help caregivers learn how to effectively communicate during these stressful times. This article will highlight ten critical tips for communicating with a person with Dementia.

Tip One: Set a Positive Mood

Many people with the onset of Dementia or those who have been living with it for some time might feel a sense that they are a burden to their caregiver. The last thing you want to do is help reinforce that feeling by using poor or agitated body language when talking with them. You must use a positive attitude to convey that you are there for them and are happy to be there. Set a positive mood by using pleasant and respectful tones when speaking, happy facial expressions, and physical touch.

Tip Two: Maintain Their Attention

Make sure that you take precautions to limit distractions before communicating with a person with Dementia. This means closing the curtains, turning off the radio or tv, and shutting the door. When you are ready, make eye contact and then address them by their name and tell them your name. If they are sitting or standing, make sure you are on their level. Use any nonverbal cues or touch to help keep their focus throughout the conversation.

Tip Three: Be Clear in your Message

Be very clear in the message you are trying to convey to the person with Dementia. Speak in a clear, slow, and reassuring tone. Do not raise your voice but lower your tone if they do not understand. Using people and things’ actual names rather than pronouns might help them better understand. If they do not understand, then repeat the exact words. Repeat this until they understand. You might need to pause for a bit to give them time to comprehend.

senior mother is talking to daughter
senior mother is talking to daughter

Tip Four: Keep it Simple

Make sure that you ask simple questions that will require a simple answer. You want them to be able to answer you, so keeping it simple will help them understand the question and be able to form a response. Always ask only one question at a time. Anytime you can show them the question you are asking, such as which beverage they want, it will help them better comprehend.

Senior with dementia or Alzheimer's is comforted by caring female doctor

Tip Five: 3D Listening

3D listening means listening with your ears, eyes, and heart when communicating with a dementia patient. You must be patient when awaiting a reply to your questions. It is also ok to suggest or help them with wording their response. Be careful that you do not listen to only their words but also the underlying meaning. Be watchful of nonverbal body cues that they display that might help you better understand.

Tip Six: Break it Down

Creating and following a series of steps will help them perform tasks they are struggling with, like setting the dinner table. This way, the task seems much more manageable, and you will be able to suggest or assist with those steps that they forget or cannot perform anymore. Use visual cues on how to complete the tasks, as well.

Tip Seven: Distract and Redirect

Things will not always go so smoothly. When they get upset or aggravated, it is important that you can distract them from their feelings and redirect them to a new task. This could be suggesting a bite to eat or a calming walk. Makes sure that you acknowledge their feelings first, though

Tip Eight: Respond with Affection

A person with Dementia will sometimes get reality confused. This could make them feel anxious and confused. These feelings and memories that they have or are recalling are genuine to them. You must respond with affection and not try to convince them that they are wrong. Instead, focus on their feelings and respond with physical and verbal expressions of comfort, reassurance, and support. Holding their hand, hugging them, or just making eye contact can help them through this time.

Tip Nine: Focus on Older Memories

Many people with Dementia have trouble with their short-term memory recollection. Avoid asking them about things that happened a short time ago. Ask them questions about their younger selves or something that happened long ago. This help soothes them and is an affirming activity for them in a difficult time. Living with Dementia can make them feel poorly about themselves. Letting them recall their childhood will give them a sense of normality, even if just for a short time.

senior father talking chatting
senior father talking chatting

Tip Ten: Humor is Key

Do not use humor at their expense, but do not shy away from telling a joke or making light of a situation. People with Dementia retain their social skills to enjoy a good laugh with their caregivers. Dealing with Dementia is not an easy task. It is important to remember that however hard it is for you to provide care to that special someone, it is much harder for them to live with the disorder. You must correctly approach them to help their life with Dementia be an easier one.

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