Family members and loved ones of those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia in Cook and Lake County know the challenges that the disease brings. The progressive decline in memory often causes difficulty with communication between the patient and the caretaker. Those with dementia may have difficulty remembering words or have difficulty communicating their thoughts clearly.
Communication issues you may notice in a person with dementia include:
- Finding the right words
- Repeating words, stories and questions
- Losing their train of thought
- Reverting to their first language
- Mixing unrelated ideas together
It will take a lot of patience and good listening skills to help ease the frustration and improve communication.
Here are 9 tips to help improve communicating with someone with dementia:
- Be patient. Allow time for the person to gather their thoughts and talk without being interrupted.
- Avoid arguing or correcting. Avoid arguing if the person says something you disagree with. You may not be able to reason with a person with dementia. Instead divert their attention to something else.
- Be aware of your nonverbal cues. Make eye contact, speak calmly and stay relaxed. Even if a person with dementia has difficulty verbalizing their thoughts, they can still react to your demeanor and body language.
- Keep it simple. Break down requests into single steps. Ask yes or no questions. Use short, direct sentences.
- Offer choices. Open ended questions, such as “What would you like to eat for dinner?” can be confusing and difficult to answer for those with dementia. Instead offer them choices, “Do you want chicken or pasta for dinner?”
- Use visual cues. Sometimes gestures or visual cues can promote better understanding than words alone. For example, if a person is having difficulty understanding that you want them to use the bathroom, getting up and pointing to the bathroom may help them understand you better.
- Don’t say “I already told you!” The hallmark of dementia is memory issues and often people with dementia will repeat questions. It can get tiresome but be patient and just repeat what you told them because to them, it may be the first time they are hearing it.
- Never shame, instead offer comfort. If the person with dementia is having trouble communicating, let them know it’s ok and provide gentle encouragement.
- Take breaks. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a moment to step away.