Talking and understanding somebody with dementia can be difficult at times, especially if the individual is in the later stages of the disease.
We take a look at how you can learn to better communicate with a person with dementia.
It is essential that we try communicating with the individual if we are to help the person have a better quality of life. This allows us to respect the persons wishes by better understanding the requests of the person.
Here are 5 ways to help you communicate better with a person who suffers from dementia.
1. Get the person’s attention
Call the person by their first name to get their attention.
Make sure when you talk to the person that there are no distractions like radio or televisions or other people talking.
Make full eye contact because this will help you get their full attention.
It will help you if you stand or sit directly in front of the person when trying to communicate with a person with dementia.
Make sure you are close enough for the person to see the movements of your mouth and your facial expressions.
2. Make it as simple as possible
Try to use short, simple words.
Keep sentences short.
Speak slowly using clear understandable words. Emphasise the most important words.
Only ask one question at a time. Allow the person enough time to answer. Give them time to think before answering.
Try to ask questions that only require a “Yes” or “No” answer.
3. Be aware of the person’s body language.
Always stay still when talking. This will help keep their attention.
Smile and use facial expressions as much as possible. Eye contact, pointing and body gestures all help when you communicate with a person with dementia.
Be aware of the person’s body language. Touch can often help calm a person who is nervous.
4. Listen when you communicate with a person with dementia
Show an interest in the subject the person is talking about and try not to interrupt what they are saying before they finish speaking.
If they are struggling to give an answer its OK for you to suggest a word.
Listen at the emotional meaning behind what the person is saying.
Listen carefully to the ‘nonsense’ words. Don’t assume that the ‘nonsense’ words have no meaning.
5. Avoid ‘you are wrong’ statements
Go with whatever the person is saying. Even if sometimes it makes no sense what they are saying.
Never argue with, attempt to reason with, or confront the person about what they have said or what you have said.
A person who is suffering from dementia may have forgotten reality. Always try to distract reality or redirect them.
An example of the above would be if a person asks to go home and they now live in a care home. Rather than say “You sold your house to live here” It would be better to say “It’s too late to go home now,” or “It’s not time yet, come with me and let’s go and make a cup of tea”.
Watch this video on how to communicate with a person with dementia
Talking about the past with a person with dementia
If a person starts to talk about their past go along with them and try to encourage them to remember things about their past.
If the person says words like “My mum will be here shortly” Don’t say “You’re mum is dead, she died years ago” This will make the person upset. Dementia sufferers often forget that loved ones have died.
Try to say “You’re mum loves you, tell me about her” or words like “You’re mum called earlier, she will come for you tomorrow, not today”
Taking the above approach will help you avoid conflict between you and the person. It will stop the individual getting upset or angry.
Taking a subtle approach on intimate subjects especially when talking about family and personal situations will often allow the person to reminisce about their past when you communicate with a person with dementia.
You can find more information on communicating with a person with dementia provided by the NHS here
Please let us know your experiences and any help you can give others when you communicate with a person with dementia. Please let us know your thoughts below.