Communicating with a Loved One Suffering from Dementia

It is extremely difficult for families when a loved one is suffering from dementia, because they have to adjust the way in which they communicate. After spending potentially your whole life knowing someone one way, it can come as a shock to see the change in them and no longer be able to interact the way you used to. Visiting your loved one can become stressful or even sad, as you may feel that you have failed to communicate or know them the way you used to.

There is no need to start avoiding visits to your loved one with dementia. If you start using more effective communication tools to connect with them, you are able to stay close to the person you care for:

  • Avoid correcting them
    It can be frustrating for the person with memory difficulties, and correcting them can lead to arguments. Just listen politely while neither correcting nor agreeing with them.
  • Use objects as memory hooks
    Objects can be very useful in provoking memories. Bringing old photographs or favourite souvenirs can be very helpful.
  • Stay in the present
    Planning ahead or looking behind can be frustrating and confusing for someone with dementia. Just go with the flow and stay in the present moment.
  • Use simple, helpful language
    Try to use language that is more helpful, rather than confusing. For example, instead of asking what you would like for lunch, simply say “this lunch is for you to eat”.
  • Communicate through body language
    Body language is so powerful for all humans. Conveying warmth and comfort through eye contact, smiles, and gestures will help someone with dementia to feel at ease. Touch is also a great communication tool and will help them to feel comfortable with you.

Above all, stay patient and stay positive. It is difficult staying close with someone who has changed so much, but remind yourself that dementia is a disease and hasn’t taken away the love that you have for each other.