When someone you love or care for has dementia, communication can be challenging. Changes in their brain may cause them to speak in a disorganized or irrational manner, or to behave in negative or uncharacteristic ways. Often, caregivers are left feeling frustrated, stressed or confused. Though this can be very difficult, there are strategies that you can use to communicate more effectively. Home Care Angels recommends the following do’s and don’ts for communicating with someone who has dementia.
- Talk to the person in a pleasant tone of voice that conveys dignity and respect
- Be patient with the person if they are struggling to think of words and let them know it’s okay
- Use touch where appropriate to reassure or show affection
- Encourage talk about things they are familiar with—even if the conversation seems repetitive to you
- Position yourself at the person’s eye level and maintain eye contact
- Keep explanations short using clear, familiar language
- Use visual cues whenever possible
- Carefully observe and try to interpret non-verbal communication
- Speak slowly and clearly—especially for those with hearing loss
- Remove distractions and background noise like TV or radio
- Remember that even if a loved one has lost verbal skills, they can still understand a smile or a kind touch!
- Talk about the person as if they were not there
- Complete their sentences for them
- Use baby talk or treat them like a child
- Touch them or invade their personal space if they are showing signs of fear or aggression
- Interrupt unless it is necessary
- Engage in arguments or rely on logic
- Use complicated words or phrases, or speak in long sentences
- Correct their language or criticize the words they use
- Take personal offense if they become paranoid or accusatory
- Stop trying to communicate!