Communication within the family is important at all levels, and it can be challenging even on the best of days, under normal circumstances. But when trying to connect with a loved one who has dementia, the difficulty level rises in the extreme. So many strong emotions are involved on all sides:
- Family members feel a strange and painful grieving process as they miss the person they once knew, all while trying to care for, work with and love someone who seems to have become a stranger to them.
- The person suffering dementia may often feel afraid, angry and disoriented, not being able to remember even basic things, including losing the ability to communicate with the very people who want most to help him or her.
How to Communicate with Dementia PatientsHere are some of our tips for making communicating in these situations a little easier and more meaningful:
1. Be patient and speak in a normal cadence.Researchers have found that a person with dementia will struggle to understand speech that is artificially slowed down as much as they will struggle with someone who talks too fast. Be patient and keep sentences simple, but speak clearly and at a normal speed—not to fast, but not too slow either.
2. Use non-verbal communication to show warmth.Face your loved one and look directly into their eyes when speaking with them. Smile. Speak with a kind, warm tone of voice. Do not cross your arms, but extend a helping hand or warm handshake.
3. Expect awkwardness and try not to get frustrated.People with dementia are struggling with progressive brain damage and may say or do things that are awkward, inappropriate or even offensive. Please remember that they cannot help themselves, and try to remain calm and smile, even during these difficult moments. Speak in an even, calm voice and don’t become agitated or this can make your loved one more agitated as well.
4. Let them win.If your loved one becomes agitated or argumentative, give them the win. Arguing with them will only increase their feelings of frustration and possibly lead to aggression. Always seek to diffuse arguments and keep things as calm and relaxing as possible. Try to make the time you have with them a warm, pleasant experience as much as you can. They may not be able to remember many things, but the feelings you give them still stick, so be positive.
5. Show love.Words can get in the way, but small, affectionate acts of service will mean a lot to your loved one and will help you have moments of special connection with them. Playing their favorite music, giving them a shoulder rub, a hug, a walk while holding hands; these are all ways that you can help bridge the gap between you and your loved one for as long as possible. Our At Home Personal Care team understands how hard it can be to care for a loved one with dementia, but we can help. We are here to help you connect with and care for your family member with compassion, respect and dignity.
Contact us today at (703) 330-2323 and let us know what we can do to help.
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