When a person is living with dementia, communication is compromised and can cause confusion and frustration. As a caregiver, it is crucial to remember that although dementia affects certain abilities, the person’s feelings and emotions will remain. Focusing what the person can do will go a long way and help the person maintain a sense of purpose and add to their quality of life. At any stage, supporting someone living with dementia can be very challenging. However, there are some ways to find solutions and navigate these challenges.
Reduce distractions: communication with one another will be easier if other things are not happening at the same time. For example, if the TV is creating a distraction, turn it off.
- Gain attention: Introduce yourself and remind them of your name. Approach the person from the front and make eye contact, this will help focus their attention. As some people have trouble recognizing faces, get close enough so they can see your facial expressions.
- Be aware of tone and body language: Always remain calm and speak in a slow, relaxed tone. Sudden movements and sharp tones can cause distress.
- Listen carefully: While listening, take note of the person’s verbal and non-verbal communications. Remember not to interrupt the person even though you might know what they are going to say. If they’re having difficulty finding a word, you can offer hints if they seem willing to accept help.
- Encourage humour and laughter: if a misunderstanding occurs, laughter over the mistake can bring you closer and release tension.
- Respect sadness: encourage the person to express their feelings and show that you understand. Emotional validation creates connection and helps you understand complex feelings and emotions.
- Be patient: The person will probably need more time to process information and communicate. Be patient and provide reassurance. Do not make them feel rushed in any way. If they sense you are impatient, they may be frustrated or stressed.
- Be aware of vision and hearing problems: If the person wears hearing aids and/or glasses, make sure they are clean and worn properly.
- Be clear and concise: Use close-ended questions which can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Avoid open-ended questions which can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Talk slowly. Even if the pace if uncomfortable to you, it will benefit the person with dementia.
- Be respectful: Use eye contact and communicate using their name. Do not talk down to the person and avoid using childish or demeaning language. They may have lost the ability to form words, however, they may still understand what is being said around them