There are various things that you should keep in mind when communicating with seniors who have dementia. Individuals suffering from dementia find it hard to remember things, communicate with others, think clearly, or even to take care of themselves. Complicate that with mood swings and changes in personality or behavior. These challenges can make it hard for you to take care of someone with dementia, and even harder if you don’t know how to communicate with them.
We are going to offer 5 tips on how to communicate with seniors who has dementia. Once you understand the best ways to communicate, it will be easier for you to provide care. If you find that you need additional help, try reaching out to the Alzheimer’s Association or look for local resources in your state.
Jane Byrne at FirstCare.ie notes that “dementia is not a disease itself, but a set of symptoms that can be caused by other diseases. Many of us have heard of Alzheimer’s, which is the most common cause of dementia, but there are also others, such as vascular dementia.” These tips will work equally well for other kinds of dementia.
1. Approach Them with Care and Respect
Be careful and calm in your approach and always show respect. Approach them from the front. Numerous types of dementia combined with the effects of aging can lead to impaired peripheral vision as well as hearing loss. Seniors with dementia are already navigating in an unknown world; startling them makes for a poor start to a conversation. Approach slowly and great them from a distance. If they don’t respond cheerfully, maintain your distance until they appear comfortable.
2. Ensure You Communicate Clearly
Use simple language when speaking. Make sure that you speak calmly and slowly with a reassuring voice. Use a low pitch and avoid raising your voice when speaking. Make sure you repeat what you need to convey until they understand. If they don’t understand even after repeating, try to re-paraphrase your message. If that is not working, take a breath and try another way. Be creative.
3. Capture Their Attention Softly
When speaking to loved ones with dementia, make sure that you capture their attention softly. You cannot force them to understand by speaking louder (unless they have hearing loss). Don’t get frustrated if you find that they don’t even recognize you. Instead, tell them who you are and what your relationship is.This may enable them to better concentrate on what you are telling them.
4. Tolerate Their Mistakes
Seniors suffering from dementia can be confused and unsure about what they are saying. They will make mistakes when talking to you. The wrong words will come out. They may forget what they were saying. They might start talking about things that you clearly know never occurred or they might mistake you with someone else. Don’t interrupt them in an attempt to correct their mistakes. If necessary, come to where they are, meaning if they are in the past at that moment, join them there and talk to them as though you too are in that time.
5. Know When You Can Communicate with Them
As mentioned, dementia can cause mood swings to seniors. There are times when they don’t want anybody in their space. Avoid approaching them during such moments as this will disturb and potentially aggravate them. If possible, save your talk or message for a time when they are more at ease. This will help ensure they do not feel disturbed by your presence.
These are just a few tips that you can use when communicating with seniors with dementia. Try them to see if it makes talking with loves ones easier, and if you have other tips, share them in the comments below.