8 Tips for How to Talk With Someone Who Has Dementia

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According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, more than 50 million people globally suffer from dementia each year, with the figure predicted to rise to more than 130 million by 2050. When the population grows, so does the need to discover new ways to engage in order to preserve these people’s desire to interact with loved ones. While dementia symptoms and severity vary, there are several dementia coping resources and support techniques available to help you have better interactions with your loved one. It’s best to be patient, straightforward, and understanding in general. 

Here are eight Alzheimer’s communication tools to help you strengthen your relationship with your loved one and improve communication.

Don’t Talk Down to the Person

Don’t speak down to the person or treat them as if they are a child. This is referred to as “elderspeak,” and it must be eliminated.  Have you ever observed how people converse with infants? They will use a high-pitched sound and approach the baby’s face. Although this is suitable for dealing with children, it is not appropriate for communicating with adults. Treat the individual with dementia with dignity and integrity, regardless of how much they may or cannot comprehend.

Speak Naturally and Use Gestures 

When conversing with someone suffering from dementia, it is important to speak plainly, easily, and in full sentences, while maintaining a relaxed and friendly demeanor.

Try communicating with your body as well as your voice, using small gestures. Use visual cues or gestures to demonstrate the point. For example, if you say, “Let’s go for a walk,” use an arm gesture to invite someone to join you.

Say Their Names

Find out what the individual prefers to be called and say it. Use “honey,” “sweetheart,” or other related words with caution. You can mean it sincerely, but it may come off as demeaning or patronizing.

Don’t Ignore Them

If you have a question, ask the person first and give him a chance to reply before going to their family for a response. Also, don’t speak about the individual as if they aren’t there. They may know more than you think, so show them your respect by answering them directly.

Be Patient

It’s best to give your loved one some more time to process what you’re saying. If you ask a question, wait patiently for their response and don’t rush their response. Get used to waiting for a couple of minutes in silence while your loved one is thinking. 

It’s tempting to rush in while your loved one is trying to find the right words. However, instead of assisting, you can inadvertently derail their thought process.

Include Them In Your Conversation 

 A dementia patient may have difficulty communicating, but it is likely that he or she knows what is going on, particularly in the early stages of dementia. Ask some questions about your loved one’s caring needs, involve him or her in social conversations, and fight the need to cut off contact simply because it is difficult. It’s also important to remember not to begin a sentence with “Do you remember..?” It may be appropriate to talk about favorite modes of communication. For example, does your loved one want to communicate orally or by electronic means such as texting or emailing?

Individuals with dementia who feel neglected can shut down, become quiet, or develop fear, depression, or paranoia.

Give Your Undivided Attention

When you’re multitasking and caring for someone with dementia, it’s possible to get overwhelmed. When talking, though, it is important to pause what you are doing and give the patient or family member your undivided attention.

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends the following when communicating:

  • Make direct eye contact.
  • Continue to be polite until he or she has finished speaking.
  • Look for cues from the tone of voice or body language.
  • Just ask one question at a time.
  • Use on yes/no questions
  • Provide reassurance by shaking your head when he or she speaks.
  • Avoid correcting whether the expression or phrases are incorrect. Give your loved one plenty of time to respond to questions or demands.

Realize there are Good & Bad Days 

While dementia is a progressive disease that worsens over time, people with dementia experience ups and downs much like anyone else.   Enjoy the good times and moments and do your best during the bad times. Where necessary, friends, family members, and others can provide moral and emotional support. 

Need support? We’re here to help! Speak with one of our dementia experts by calling (301) 882-4717 or email us at info@thriveusahomecare.com. Our unique, holistic approach means that your loved ones will Thrive!

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