Effective communication plays a crucial role in our everyday lives. It enables us to share our experiences, express our emotions and thoughts, and connect with others. However, communicating with someone who has dementia can prove to be a challenge. In this article, Grace will provide tips on how to communicate effectively with individuals who have dementia.
A person with dementia may be coming to terms with their diagnosis or may be at a later stage. In either case they may be dealing with a range of emotions, from denial, anxiety, fear, frustration or even anger. Being able to continue to communicate as well as possible can be significantly beneficial both to you and your relative, helping their confidence and the quality of both of your lives.
The best time to talk
If there is a time of day when a person is more able to converse it can be useful to speak to them then, rather than when he or she might typically be more confused, such as when having just woken or when hungry or tired.
Of course, when we’re living with a person, we all have general chit chat during the day and so planning a time for a conversation might not be practical, but as those with dementia can have difficulty focusing and background noise can exacerbate this it can be helpful to turn down the radio or TV (with permission if a person is watching this of course). Focusing on the individual by making eye contact and acknowledging what they’re saying by nodding or smiling might also help them engage and remain engaged.
Be patient and communicate clearly
It is important to be as patient as possible and go at the pace that works for your relative. Not speaking too fast and using short sentences can give your relative both time to understand and to respond.
If your relative hasn’t understood what you’ve said try saying it again as he or she may not have heard or simply needs more time, but if they are still finding it difficult consider carefully rewording what you’ve said because it’s possible that this might be all it takes for what you’re trying to get across to make more sense to your relative.
If you’re asking your relative a question, bear in mind that open-ended questions can be more difficult for a person to respond to compared to a question that requires a yes or no answer.
Sometimes we all need a break
If your relative is getting upset or agitated it’s probably best to leave it and distract them with something else. Equally, if you find yourself becoming frustrated or curt it might be time to suggest a cup of tea.
Laughter can be the best medicine
Everyone is different and at a different stage in their dementia journey and so what works for one person may not work for someone else or you might find that it works one day and not the next. Remember, it is you who knows your relative best; what they like and don’t like, what might perk them up or make them cross, but remember, wherever you can, have some fun together - sharing a laugh can be a great way to connect.
Help is available
Finally, supporting someone living with dementia, whether it's a loved one, friend, or family member, can be tough, communicating with them may take patience and compassion. Hopefully this will go some way to making things a little easier.
At Grace, half of our cases involve needs relating to dementia. Should you need it, we're here to provide you with guidance and assist you in finding and selecting the most suitable dementia care and support services.
Look out for our blog, ‘Thinking of you’, aimed at carers, in the not-too-distant future.
Grace Consulting are the UK’s founding providers of expert independent advice on elderly care advice, special needs advice and neurodiversity advice. Independence and client wellbeing are at the heart of everything we do. We listen, reassure and advise you on how to move forwards and find the best possible solutions for your unique life challenges.