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How Do You Communicate Effectively With Dementia Patients

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  • 24-10-2022
How Do You Communicate Effectively With Dementia Patients

Do you need to find out how to communicate effectively with dementia patients? This article shares some helpful Alzheimer's and dementia tips for better communication.

Alzheimer's & dementia Tips for better communication

Communication with someone who has Alzheimer's disease or similar dementia can be extremely challenging. A loved one, family member, or friend with dementia can have an incredibly hard time understanding you, and you may have a difficult time trying to understand what they are attempting to express to you. There is great potential for misunderstanding, frustration, and confusion in both directions.

This makes communication even more complex. In order to get through this, you will need to be very patient. Good listening skills are important, too, as well as constantly trying new strategies to get communication to work. Below are some ways you can ease your frustration and improve your communication.

What you can do to help

In order to improve understanding on both sides, you should try the following:

Be as patient as possible - Patience is vital in these situations. Take the time to listen to what the individual is saying and give the person with dementia time to speak with zero interruptions.

Learn to interpret - Take time to understand what the individual is trying to say based on the context. If the person is struggling to get their thoughts across, then perhaps try to help with a guess.

Stay connected - It is important to make eye contact while you are communicating with someone. Calling them by their name is equally important too. Some will even hold hands while they are communicating.

Think about your non-verbal clues -  Try to speak as calmly as possible. Your body language should also show that you are relaxed.

Offer comfort when needed - If the person with dementia is having trouble with communication, then let them know that is absolutely fine. Sometimes a small bit of gentle encouragement will do a world of good too.

Show your respect - Try not to speak down to the individual and avoid diminutive phrases. Do not talk about them as if they are not in the room. This can be very harmful.

How Do You Communicate Effectively With Dementia Patients?

Avoid any distractions - Attempt to limit any visual distractions and background noises, for example, a radio or a TV. These distractions make it difficult to pay attention and listen attentively.

Keep it simple - Try to use short sentences. As the dementia disease progresses, you should ask questions that only require a yes or no answer. When possible, try to break down requests into simple small steps.

Offer choices - Try to offer choices when you are making a request for something that the individual may initially resist. For example, if they do not want to wash, then you might ask them what time of day would be preferable for them to have a shower.

Use visual cues - In some cases, gestures and other visual cues can assist with a better understanding than words ever could. Rather than outright asking whether someone needs to use the toilet, take them to the toilet and point to it.

Try not to criticise, argue, or correct - Do not correct any mistakes they make. If the person says something that you disagree with, try not to argue with them.

Take breaks - As with many activities in life, if you are frustrated, then you should take a timeout.

Communicating with someone with dementia

Dementia is a progressive illness that, over time, has an effect on an individual's ability to remember and comprehend simple everyday facts, for example, names, dates and places. Unfortunately, dementia also has an effect on the way that a person communicates. Gradually, the person's ability to present rational ideas and their ability to reason intelligibly will drastically change.

If you are taking care of a person with dementia, then you might find that as the illness slowly progresses, you will have to start discussions in order to get the person to make some kind of conversation. This is common with dementia. Over time the person's ability to process information will become weaker, and this means that their responses will become delayed.

Body Language & Physical Contact

Communication is more than just talking. Facial expressions, gestures, and the movement of your body are all important in conveying meaning and helping you to get a point across.

Physical contact and body language become incredibly important once speech is difficult for a person who is suffering from dementia.If someone is having trouble with their speech or their understanding, then try to do the following:

Be as patient and as calm as possible; this will help the person to communicate much easier

Keep your voice's tone friendly and positive whenever it is possible

Speak to the person at a respectful distance in order to avoid intimidating them. Try to speak at the same level as them or lower than they are; this can also help. For example, if they are sitting down, then sit down with them or crouch.

Holding the person's hand while you are talking to them can really reassure the person you are there to help and will make you feel closer. Try to watch their body language and listen to what they say to see whether they are comfortable being around you and comfortable with you doing this.

It is vital that you encourage the individual to communicate whatever they want whenever they can in whatever way works for them. 

You should remember that everyone finds it frustrating when we cannot communicate our thoughts effectively or have had our words misunderstood

Communicating With Someone With Dementia

Listening to & understanding

Communication is a two-way process. If you are a carer for someone who has dementia, then you will have to learn to listen far more carefully.

You might need to be more aware of the non-verbal messages that the person is communicating, such as their body language and facial expressions. You will need to use more physical contact as well, such as reassuring touches on their hand or arm. Smiling while you talk will have an impact too.

Active listening is very important:

Always use eye contact when looking at the person

Try never to interrupt the individual while they are talking, even if you know what they are going to say

Stop what you are doing so you can give them your full attention

Try to remove as many distractions from the space as possible

Repeat back what you heard to the person so you can ask whether it is accurate

If you have questions about the needs of a person with dementia we hope this information has been useful to you.

We offer specialist Alzheimer's and dementia home care services and live-in care for vulnerable adults throughout London. Get in contact today if you have a loved one that would benefit from professional care at home.