Tips for communicating with someone with dementia

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It can be very distressing if a loved-one with dementia becomes angry, confused or agitated at not being able to communicate their feelings completely, so we’ve put together some tips that will help you to better understand what a loved-one is trying to convey and to help you both feel less stressed:

Listen and pay attention

It’s important to listen and pay close attention to what a loved-one with dementia is trying to say. Patience is also key, let them get their words out, however long it takes. If they become agitated or upset or don’t make sense, try to see if there are any physical signs of a problem, such as them being hungry or tired.

If they have said something you don’t understand, rephrase what they have said and check with them to see if you’ve got it correct. Their reaction and body language will be a good indicator.

When talking with them it’s also important to use a normal, calm tone of voice and be wary of raising it as people with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be extremely sensitive to tones, even if they may not understand what you are saying.

Allow them time to respond as it can take them longer to process information and work out their answers.

Don’t argue

It’s important not to feel the need to correct or argue a point with a person with dementia as this can cause upset for both parties. Instead, you should acknowledge what your loved-one is saying and let them know you understand and have taken their point on board. If you need to, you can change the subject or divert attention to a different topic that makes them happy.

Stick to one topic at a time and avoid too many questions

Too many conversation topics can be confusing for a person with dementia, so try to stick to one topic at a time and limit the number of questions you ask as this can cause the person to become frustrated or withdrawn if they can’t find the answer.

Questions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ones that give the person a choice work best, but if they still don’t quite understand, try rephrasing it instead of repeating it.

Recognise body language

People with dementia can quite often rely on non-verbal communication as their condition progresses. It will take time but you should learn to recognise the person’s body language and practice being mindful of your own as a person with dementia can pick up on tense facial expressions and sudden movements.

You should always respect a person with dementia’s personal space – don’t stand too close in order to communicate as it could make them feel intimidated.

Physical contact such as holding a person’s hand or putting an arm round them can really help reassure and comfort them.