Communication is a vital part of our lives, but communicating with someone who has dementia symptoms is not always easy.
Memory loss, confusion and problems with language are all effects of dementia and need to be taken into account when trying to communicate with someone who suffers from this illness. Try to see beyond the illness and try to appreciate the person's own problems and frustrations of being ill.
The techniques below are used by professional caregivers when providing care to someone with elderly dementia. These are proven and effective techniques that I have used many times.
6 Tips for communicating verbally, this includes oral and written words.
- Get their attention first – do this by announcing yourself and using their personal name. Do not start your message until you have their attention or all will be lost
- Make sure they can hear you – do they have their hearing aid in place or is the room too noisy?
- Use short and simple sentences – stick to the basics
- Give one message at a time – do not give too much information or talk about too many different topics or ask too many questions
- Speak clearly but do not shout – Make sure your words are spoken clearly and do not speak too fast. Also, do not speak at them, speak with them
- Repeat the message – If necessary, repeat your message or question using the same words
6 tips for non-verbal communication, this includes all body language.
- Stay calm and quiet – Set the scene by being calm and serene yourself; do not try to rush through the conversation. If you are pressed for time, come back when you are more relaxed and have more time
- Respect personal space – Getting too close may be threatening or intimidating and cause agitation
- Make eye contact – This tells them that you are talking to them and will help them realize that you expect an answer from him / her
- Be observant – Observe their body language / reactions. It's difficult to control our body language so observe them; their body language may tell you more than their words
- Be mindful of your facial expressions – A person with elderly dementia may have a difficult time understanding the words you say but your facial expressions give your emotions, so do everything you can to keep them calm
- Make sure your tone of voice and modulation transmit serenity – Also very important because they can get the sense of whether you are angry or happy just by the tone of your voice
Communication is very important through our entire lives to give and receive information and to stay connected. Good and respectful communication with someone who has age dementia symptoms is crucial to their care and to their quality of life.
Most of all, we need to remember that, as a person, they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and our way of communicating with them should reflect it.
Try these different techniques and find the ones that work for you and your loved ones who suffer from dementia.