Communication is vital to our well-being. People living with dementia slowly lose their language skills and their ability to express themselves freely. This has a profound impact on their quality of life.
There are many ways we can support people living with dementia to communicate more effectively. It is important to remember that how you say something is often more important than what you say. Patience and empathy are key. Here are 10 tips to help communicate with people living with dementia.
1. Realize Your Challenge
Your loved one will get worse with time. Communication will become more difficult. On the other hand, remember there will be good days and bad days. Be prepared.
2. Be Patient
Communicating effectively is one of the greatest challenges seniors living with dementia face. Tolerate compassionately any delays, adversity or provocation.
3. Offer Reassurance
Listen attentively and empathize with their concerns even if they are delusional, confused, hesitating, or angry. Offer reassurance and support.
4. Minimize Background Noise
Noise can disturb and confuse people living with dementia. Find a quiet place to talk, away from the TV, radio, or people passing by.
5. Avoid Arguing
When talking, place yourself in front of the senior client and speak in a clear and warm tone. Use simple sentences and give them ample time to respond. Do not contradict what they are saying and don’t speak to them as you would to a young child.
6. Use Nonverbal Cues
Gestures, touch, and facial expressions can assist communication. Observe if the person’s non-verbal cues indicate other messages, despite the words they are saying. There may be other feelings behind the words they are saying.
7. Be Precise
Avoid pronouns such as ‘they’ ‘he’ or ‘she’. Refer to people by their preferred names.
8. Keep it simple
Focus on one subject at a time; people living with dementia cannot manage two or three threads of conversation. Questions should be posed that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.
9. Be Sensitive
When talking about the senior in their presence, assume they can understand everything you say. Do not talk about them as if they were not there.
10. Take a Break
If you feel frustrated, take a break. You are not perfect! A person living with dementia is very capable of reading your body language. If you do not mean what you say, they will know. Taking a break will benefit both parties.
“At Lake Gibson Village, our top priority is to give older adults the support they need to live full, enriched lives,” says Laura Tenpenny. “Whether that means giving families trustworthy advice about home safety, or providing professional care, Lake Gibson Village has you covered.”