Caring for a loved one with dementia can be quite challenging for most families. The tips posted below can be extremely helpful for family, friends or carers when trying to communicate with the person who has dementia.
Improving your communication skills will help make caregiving less stressful and will likely improve the relationship with your loved one.
- Set a positive mood for interaction- your attitude and body language communicate your feelings stronger than your words. Try speaking in a pleasant manner with a softer tone of voice and positive facial expressions to convey your message.
- Get the persons attention- when you need to speak, keep distractions to a minimum. Try turning off the TV and closing the curtains. Before beginning to speak, ensure you have eye contact and try going down to their eye level. Address them by their name and identify yourself by name and relation.
- State your message clearly – use simple word that are easy to understand. Speak slowly and clearly in a reassuring tone. Never raise your voice, instead, lower your pitch. If they do not understand you, repeat your message using the same wording. If they are still struggling, wait a few minutes and rephrase your sentence and try using names of people and places instead of the pronouns or abbreviations.
- Ask simple questions– only ask one question at a time and try not to give too many choices as this can confuse and frustrate them. If you are choosing something to wear together, choose two options and show them for them to choose from. Visual cues make it easier for them to understand. Try asking mainly yes/no questions as sometimes open questions can cause them to get confused.
- Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart- Be patient in waiting for your loved one’s reply. If she is struggling for an answer, it’s okay to suggest words. Watch for nonverbal cues and body language, and respond appropriately.
- Break down activities into a series of steps- you can manage tasks much easier by breaking things down into smaller steps. You can encourage your loved one to do what they can, gently remind them of steps they tend to forget, you can then support them in completing the steps they are unable to do alone. It is helpful to use visual cues, such as showing them with your hand where to place the dinner plate.
- When the going gets tough, distract and redirect- If your loved one becomes upset or agitated, try changing the subject or the environment. For example, ask them for help or suggest going for a walk. It is important to connect with the person on a feeling level, before you redirect. You might say, “I see you’re feeling sad—I’m sorry you’re upset. Let’s go get something to eat.”
- Respond with affection and reassurance- People with dementia often feel confused, anxious, and unsure of themselves. They will often get reality confused and could recall things that never really happened. The best thing to do is not to try and convince them they are wrong. Stay focused on the feelings they are demonstrating (which are real) and respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort, support, and reassurance. Sometimes holding hands, touching, hugging, and praising your family member will get them to respond when all else fails.
- Remember the good old days- Remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. Many people with dementia may not remember what happened 45 minutes ago, but they can clearly recall their lives 45 years earlier. Therefore, avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, such as asking the person what they had for lunch. Instead, try asking general questions about the person’s distant past—this information is more likely to be retained.
- Maintain your sense of humour- Use humour whenever possible, though not at the person’s expense. People with dementia tend to retain their social skills and are usually delighted to laugh along with you.
Remember that you are not alone in this and there is support that you can get. Often families will try and take on every part of the care themselves, this is not always an ideal situation for the family and it is definitely not something that has to happen. There are many different lines of support open to carers and families going through this. Try to research your options before deciding on your care plan by contacting local care agencies and local authorities. Funding may also be available for you.Tags: dementia, education