Dealing with dementia is never an easy thing. This is especially true when trying to communicate with someone who has it. The disorder makes it harder for the person to understand and deliver messages. This can lead to frustration for both the patient and their families. Oftentimes, this can lead to conflict which is the last thing anyone in that situation needs. Consider these tips for speaking to a person with dementia.
1. Try to stay positive. Recognize that dementia does get progressively worse over time. This does not mean to give in and not keep a good attitude. The positivity one exudes with his or her body language and attitude resonates more strongly with people with dementia than words do.
2. Try to limit distractions. Turn off the tv, radio, or any device that will make background noise. If possible, try to speak when there’s no one else around. This allows the person to focus all of his or her mental energy on the conversation.
3. Speak clearly and with a warm voice. Avoid “baby talk” or any other kind of tone that could be condescending.
4. Use simple words and language. Avoid using pronouns like “him”, “her”, “its”. Instead call everything by its name. Names are important for jogging the memory of people who have dementia.
5. Keep any questions simple. Try to ask questions that are either yes or no questions, or at least questions that do not have too many choices.
6. Keep a close eye on their body language. Even if they are struggling to get the words out, their body language can say the feeling they are trying to communicate.
7. If a conversation is not going down a good direction, distract and redirect. If they are having difficulty with a question and are becoming upset by it, try to distract them. Suggest they drop the conversation and go do something else.
8. Respond to them with affection. People with dementia may remember things that never occurred or remember things incorrectly. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to convince them that they are wrong. That just leads to anger. Instead, focus on expressing affection and comfort towards the person.
Dementia makes it difficult to communicate. Patients with it will have their good and bad days. It’s important to keep that in mind when dealing with the disorder.