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Tips for Talking to Someone with Dementia

Talking with someone with dementia

When caring for a spouse, family member or friend who has dementia, the growing difficulties in communicating with them effectively can be frustrating and disheartening. But, over time, you learn that what you say to them is less important than how you say it. And, as a leading elder care provider, we tell families that you begin to understand that although the way you communicate is changing, it’s still critically important to them and to you that you continue to talk.

Strategies for Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

To ensure your conversations with your loved one are as positive as possible, use the tips below.

  • Be aware of the person’s body language. In people with dementia, it may convey a different message than the words they are using.
  • Wait for them to collect their thoughts if it appears they have more to say. Try not to interrupt or rush them.
  • Even if a person has experienced very significant cognitive decline, never talk to others about them in their presence as if they can’t hear or understand you.
  • Look for ways a story about the past may be intended to communicate present-day concerns or emotions.
  • Don’t correct their inaccuracies unless it is clearly important to do so.
  • Avoid arguing with them. A person with dementia can rarely be convinced to change their mind. So, look for ways to take the emotion out of the conversation.
  • Don’t be offended if they say things to or about you that are unfair or hurtful. Very loving people with dementia sometimes say things they don’t mean.
  • As best you can, eliminate distractions like radio, TV, the conversations of others, etc.
  • Go into every conversation knowing that it may become repetitive, frustrating, and emotionally draining. Try to have discussions when you are rested and unhurried.
  • Focus on simplifying the interaction. Speak slowly, make a clear transition from one topic to the next, and ask only one question at a time.
  • Use the person’s name often as you talk with them.
  • Use positive non-verbal communication such as a smile or gentle touch, and face the person so they understand they have your attention.

Patience and gentle persistence are the keys to having a meaningful dialogue with a person struggling with dementia.

A Positive Environment for Uplifting Interactions

The real-home setting at Green House Homes at Mirasol is designed to make elders feel safe and comfortable. And, as experts in elder care, we know that a relaxed environment can help elders with dementia communicate more effectively.

August/21/2018 | News

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