Communicating Through Dementia
You would think with all the practice we’ve had throughout our lives, communicating with our family, friends, and loved ones would come as easy as breathing. But for many, even simple conversations can be tough. Some people are just not wired the same socially, which turns ‘making conversation’ into an awkward event.
Couple that with caring for a friend or family member with dementia, and even simple conversations can become stressful for everyone involved. These conversations can be very emotional, running the gamut of emotions, including stress, anger, sadness, guilt, and resentment. Perhaps having a few tools to help carry the conversation will help? Some things to consider when talking to someone with dementia include:
- Stay positive and calm
- Remove distractions
- Identify yourself
- Use shorter sentences
- Don’t make assumptions
- Redirect negativity
- Provide options
- Exhibit appropriate body language
It is important to remember that communication is difficult for the dementia patient too. While they may not seem like the same person who you spent so many years with, they are still in there, and expressing themselves is quite frustrating. Help them maintain their dignity and peace of mind as best you can. While conversations are paramount, you can also explore other means of communications, such as through photos, music, and books that are important to them.
A benefit of working on developing a good communication strategy is that it will improve the overall relationship. The patience you learn and insights you gain will help you manage difficult behaviors or inexplicable emotions from your loved one. You can use these tools in other relationships too. Perhaps the lesson in patience that was so painful to learn with the added layer of communicating through dementia pays off in relationships with your children. You have learned to slow down, take a breath, and not take it so personally. Or perhaps your coworkers benefit from your newly found active listening and feedback skillset. Learning or improving your own behavior has a snowball effect on all of your relationships, whether related to the dementia or not.
Please contact us if you would like additional information or resources in developing a communication plan with your loved one.