Tips for Communicating With Your Loved One Who Has Dementia
How you communicate with a loved one with dementia will evolve as their condition progresses. As a result of the disease, a person’s cognitive abilities will decline, leading to strain when having conversations. This may include difficulty understanding what you are saying or trouble expressing themselves. This leaves room for misinterpretation, increased confusion, and irritation for you and your loved one. While adjusting to the changes that come with dementia may be challenging, there are ways to facilitate conversation by developing new ways to communicate effectively while mitigating frustration. The dementia care experts at Placita In Home Care are here to help you.
It’s important to understand what to expect regarding changes in communication that come with the progression of dementia. There are several patterns your loved one may display, including:
- Experiencing difficulty when trying to find the right words
- Using general words as substitutions when they can’t think of the proper word
- Describing something when they cannot remember the name of it
- Repetition of words, stories, or questions
- Combining unrelated phrases or ideas
- Losing track of their train of thought mid-conversation
- Becoming withdrawn and speaking less frequently
The Importance of Patience
The most vital component of healthy and effective communication with a loved one with dementia is patience. This condition takes a toll on their ability to process information, which means it may take a bit longer for them to respond to questions. It’s important to remain patient and allow them the time to grasp your message so they can respond. Do not try to rush them, speak on their behalf, or interrupt them, and maintain a calm and reassuring tone to keep them from feeling pressured or overwhelmed.
Dementia may result in a person having difficulty when trying to express themselves. Pay close attention to their facial expressions, tone, mannerisms, and body language, and look beyond the words to understand the message they’re trying to convey. Practicing interpretation may be beneficial in these situations to facilitate communication and avoid aggravation.
Additionally, you may offer guesses. If you are offering a guess, allow them enough time to try to express themselves, and do not interrupt them while they speak. Wait until they have finished what they are trying to say, and then kindly offer a guess that relates to the interpretation cues you picked up while listening.
Connection is an essential aspect of communication, especially when it comes to conversations with a loved one with dementia. Establishing a strong connection makes the situation more comfortable and makes communication more effective. Maintain eye contact, always call your loved one by name when addressing them, and gently hold their hand while talking.
Non-verbal cues can aid the flow of conversations with a loved one with dementia. Simple gestures, including nodding or smiling, can demonstrate engagement and keep conversation steady, as your loved one will feel heard and acknowledged.
Furthermore, rather than asking them a question, demonstrate what you are asking them to grant them a deeper understanding. For example, rather than asking your loved one if they need to use the bathroom, point or lead them to the bathroom when asking your question to associate your question with a specific action.
It’s important to remember that while it may be frustrating or challenging for you to wait for your loved one to remember their words or convey their thoughts, it’s equally as hard on them. They realize that they cannot remember what they are trying to say, and that can be both distressing and embarrassing. When you notice them experiencing trouble when trying to communicate, encourage them in a positive way. Reassure them that it’s okay and that you do not mind waiting while they collect their thoughts. This can alleviate stress and help them to relax and communicate more freely.
Lead With Respect
When a loved one struggles to communicate, you may lose sight of the person they are beneath their condition. Remind yourself that you are still speaking with an adult, and they deserve respect just as they did before their cognitive impairment. Avoid using baby talk or diminutive phrases. Furthermore, allow your loved one to be dignified and do not speak about them as if they are not in the same room.
When asking your loved one their opinion, giving them clear choices can be highly effective. Not only does this allow for more understanding, but it also grants them a sense of control that instills confidence and dignity. Allowing them to make small choices on their own can contribute greatly to their sense of self, allowing them to retain a sense of independence. For example, when asking them what they would like to wear, lay out a few choices. When asking them what they would like to do for the day, you may offer them the option of going to the park or watching a movie.
Dementia can impact the ability to focus. A calm, quiet environment free of clutter is the most effective way to communicate with your loved one, as they will not feel overwhelmed by other things happening in the room. Minimizing distractions, including visual distractions and background noise, can help them concentrate on the conversation.
Avoid Corrections and Arguments
When your loved one makes a mistake while speaking or says something that you disagree with, it may feel normal to dispute what they said or offer a correction. However, it’s best to avoid corrections, criticism, or arguments, as your loved one may feel attacked or frustrated, leading to confusion and discomfort. Instead, when these situations arise, offer a cue to help them get back on track with the conversation. If you notice they are becoming agitated with a particular topic, gently redirect the conversation to calm them down.
Take a Time Out
If you are feeling burnt out or frustrated, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to take a step back to breathe and collect your composure. When you’re experiencing frustration when communicating with a loved one with dementia, a time out is the most effective way to avoid hurt feelings. It allows you and your loved one to calm down while deterring further aggravation, confusion, or stress.
Get Support From Dementia Care Professionals
If a loved one is experiencing the early signs of dementia and you want to learn how to prepare yourself for the way your conversations may change with time, or if you are looking to gain more knowledge about dementia care, the dementia care professionals at Placita In Home Care are here to help. Contact our compassionate team today to learn more about memory care and discover how our care professionals can add value to your family.