How to communicate with someone living with dementia
A diagnosis of dementia is not just a scary thing for the individual, it is also a real worry for the people that love and care for them. Their family and friends often feel guilty about this reaction and sometimes this guilt stops them spending time with their loved ones living with dementia. This article will help you communicate with someone living with dementia.
Another reason that limits the time that people spend with people living with dementia is not really understanding how to communicate with them. Learning how to communicate with someone living with dementia can make all the difference.
Although a very real concern, it is something that is easier to manage than people realize and if you just take a leap of faith the positive interactions that the 850,000 people living with dementia experience each and every day will increase significantly.
It is still them!
The important thing to remember is that your loved one may be living with a challenging condition but it is still them. They have not changed who they are and they will still benefit from having you around, even if they cannot remember your name. So focus on what they need and not on your own fears and worries.
People living with dementia do not always communicate in the exact same way they used to but that does not mean they don’t communicate at all. Everybody is different but if you keep some of the following in mind when communicating with someone living with dementia you should both have a positive and enjoyable experience.
Here are some simple tips
- As with communicating with everybody else in your life, it is not just about the words you use, although these are still important. When you engage make sure your tone and your body language is positive and non-threatening.
- They may not always remember the conversation later that day; however this does not matter because a positive interaction with somebody that cares about them will make them feel good long after they have forgotten about it.
- Don’t be obsessed with achieving anything other than having a conversation; sometimes the process of communicating and making someone feel good is the end in itself.
- Speak clearly and slowly using short sentences, this will aid their understanding.
Be respectful, they are still the person you have always known
Always use eye contact with the person, make it obvious that you are talking to them.
- Always make sure you are on the same level as the person you are talking to, don’t tower over them if they are sat down or in bed.
- Make sure you don’t get too close; you don’t want to be in their personal space as this may intimidate them. So lower yourself down to their level or sit at an appropriate distance. Focus on making them feel comfortable.
- Let them take as much time as they need to make their point or have their say. Don’t get impatient if they are taking too long or if they are searching for a word.
The conversation is the key not the outcome
- Don’t be tempted to finish their sentences for them. Remember the act of the conversation may be enough to make their day better without the need to exchange any information.
- If you want to try and utilize photo albums, music or other items that may jog their memories or facilitate a positive conversation then give it a try. If there are key happy memories you shared from the past feel free to start talking about these.
- Keep things easy to follow, ask single point questions and give them time to think and time to answer.
Enjoy your time together
- Don’t patronize the person living with dementia, treat them with respect and kindness.
- Just allow them to take the conversation wherever they want, even if it doesn’t appear to make sense to you.
- Focus on them for the entirety of your conversation, don’t get sidetracked with other people or your phone or anything else.
- Try to get rid of any background noise or distractions such as a loud TV or radio. Noise in the background might make them more confused and they may lose their train of thought.
- Use their name throughout the conversation.
- Don’t be afraid if there are any silences within the conversation. Silence can make some people feel awkward but people living with dementia don’t always notice this.
- Just try and be understanding and perhaps listen to music together if the conversation is struggling.
If you have any questions or would like to find a suitable care home for your loved one living with dementia, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact your local Greensleeves Care home and speak to the manager.