As the dementia progresses your loved one will experience difficulties in communicating their thoughts and finding the right words. An inability to communicate properly could increase the feeling of isolation and lead to embarrassing moments. However, their need for communication does not decrease and should rather be considered an important aspect of maintaining quality of life.
Difficulties in communication can be frustrating for you as a carer or relative as well as for the person with dementia. There are however some easy ways for you to ease the situation and help, remember that your attitude and encouragement are most important.
Helping a loved one communicate
- Be positive and avoid criticising and correcting. Try to remain calm and adapt a positive approach.
- Focus on feelings instead of facts. You can respond to what you think they feel or mean rather than focusing on their mistakes.
- Do not rush for an answer, give the person some time to think about what he or she wants to say.
- If you haven’t fully understood what they are saying, you can respond with what you have understood to see if you are right or ask them to point and use gestures.
- Stay close to them, but respect their personal space. It is often good to be at the same or bellow their eye level to help the person feel in control.
- Do not exclude them from conversations with friends and family
Tips for your communication
- Pay attention to your non-verbal communication. Your facial expressions, gestures and touch are equally important to verbal communication.
- Speak clearly and slowly, try to keep the natural rhythm of your speech.
- Use positive instead of negative statements, instead of telling them what they shouldn’t do, suggest or show what they should.
- Make eye contact
- Avoid too difficult questions, it is better to ask closed questions that are simple and straightforward.
- Avoid quizzing them by saying “do you remember when..?”
- Talk to a person, rather than about them to others and avoid speaking as if the person wasn’t there. Also avoid talking to the person as you would to a young child. It is all a matter of treating them with respect.
- Avoid arguing, as it in most cases will only make things worse.
- If the person is “living” in the old days, then talk about the old days.