Watching a loved one go through mental changes can be devastating. You feel like you’re losing your connection and your past shared memories. It can be very difficult, but there are some things you can do to make the best of the situation. There will be good days and bad days, and, in general, dementia gets worse over time, so take advantage of the connection you have now and the moments of lucidity when you see them.

Here are some tips to help you communicate with a loved one who has dementia:

Keep it simple.

Find a quiet place to talk that is free of distractions. Turn off the TV and radio so that your loved one can pay attention to the conversation. Keep the conversation simple and focused on one topic without jumping around.

Be a good listener.

Show your loved one you care about and respect them by actively listening even if what they’re saying doesn’t make sense. Smile, maintain eye contact and don’t talk about them as though they weren’t there. And remember that if the dementia is advanced, your loved one may only be able to communicate nonverbally. In that case, you can follow along with nonverbal cues.

Make it clear.

Use a calm and warm voice to speak clearly and naturally without reverting to “baby talk” or other condescending language. Avoid using pronouns like “he” or “she” and use a person’s name instead to help your parent remember who you’re talking about. When greeting your loved one, use your name and encourage others to do the same, as in: “Hi Mom. It’s me, Barb.” Or, if someone is visiting, say, “Mom, you remember Matthew.”

Practice patience.

It can be easy to get frustrated when someone keeps repeating themselves or can’t find the words to have a conversation. Try to let it go and give your loved one extra time and repeat chances to communicate their thoughts. Don’t be tempted to correct their inaccurate statements or tell them “you already said that.” It is not helpful and will only cause frustration for both of you.

Get physical.

Your loved one may not be able to communicate verbally the way that you’re used to, but they will appreciate signs of love and affection. Give them a hug to let them know how much you care. Hold their hand to reassure them that you are there for them. Sit next to them to watch their favorite show. They can understand these signs, even if they can’t verbally express it.

Home Care Angels provides assistance with daily activities, such as dressing, eating and personal care, from home service aides. Please call 847.824.5221 to speak with one of our Client Care Coordinators if you would like more information on in-home care.