Tips for Effectively Communicating with Dementia Patients

How to Facilitate Communication with a Senior with Dementia

By Will Reid, 8:00 am on

After a senior loved one is diagnosed with dementia, their family members often fall into the role of caregiver and begin planning for the future. While many individuals are aware of the memory loss that is often associated with dementia, few recognize that the later stages of the condition will bring on more complex challenges such as an inability to communicate effectively.

If you provide home care for an aging parent or loved one with dementia, your ability to openly and effectively communicate with him or her will be instrumental in ensuring the highest level of quality care throughout the course of the disease. Below, find some of top Alzheimer’s Association-approved tips for effective communication with a senior who has dementia.

The Basics

When beginning a conversation, approach your loved one from the front to avoid startling them, and make sure the room is well lit. Determine and respect what your loved one considers a comfortable distance in terms of personal space. You may also want to identify yourself and address your loved one by name. This helps those with dementia orient themselves to their surroundings and the conversation in general.

Always Be Respectful

Family caregivers always have respect for their aging loved ones, however when dementia is a factor, it can be easy for a caregiver to change his or her tone in attempt to facilitate conversation. For instance, because a senior with dementia might exhibit child-like behavior, his or her caregiver may inadvertently resort to speaking and treating them as if he or she is a child. It is important to be mindful of this common issue, and to respect the years that your loved one has enjoyed without dementia. Speaking slowly to your loved one as opposed to changing your tone can help to preserve dignity. Also, do your best to only give small chunks of information at a time, which can help your loved one better process what you are saying.

If communication breaks down, take a breather and return with a different approach. Sometimes, just sitting together in silence can be a productive way to communicate love and to provide comfort.

Take Cues and Adjust Accordingly

People with dementia sometimes need help remembering a word they’re looking for; other times, being corrected will agitate them. Pick up on the subtle or not-so-subtle clues that your loved one may provide with their reactions. Some doctors and dementia care specialists also recommend keeping a journal with this information. By writing down triggers and keeping track of them, you can better enhance future communication.

Non-Verbal Communication

For patients who have lost the ability to speak or are over-stimulated by long conversations, there are a variety of non-verbal ways to communicate. For instance, if your aging loved one is comfortable with being touched, hugging or holding hands can be immensely reassuring. Other activities such as looking at a photo album together can also be a nice way to reminisce without the need for words.

Need Help with Care at Home?

If you need help caring for a senior loved one with dementia, don’t hesitate to reach out to Home Care Assistance Cincinnati today. We specialize in Cincinnati dementia care and have a team of experienced and professional caregivers who are trained in dementia care and our exclusive Cognitive Therapeutics Method, a wellness program that was designed specifically to help promote mental acuity and brain health for older adults.

To learn more about the Cognitive Therapeutics Method or to request a complimentary, no-obligation consultation with a friendly Care Manager, call 707-843-4368 today.