Senior Care Center’s Ten Tips for Communicating With Dementia Sufferers
No-one is born knowing how to communicate with someone who is suffering from dementia, but it is possible to learn. When your communication skills are improved, you will be able to provide better care to those who need it.
Improving your communication skills will also help you handle some of the more difficult behavior that you encounter during dementia care according to Senior Care Center.
Set A Positive Mood
Your body language and attitude will communicate more than you might imagine and will portray your thoughts and feelings more than your words. This is why you need to set a positive mood when you speak to your loved one. You need to use your facial expressions, physical touch and tone of voice to help get your message across and display your affection for them.
Get Their Attention
When communicating, you need to make your surroundings as quiet as possible and limit potential distractions such as the TV or radio. Before you start talking, you need to ensure that you have the person’s attention and address them by name. You also need to take the time to identify yourself by relation and name while using nonverbal cues to keep them focused such as touching their hand. If the person is seated when you start talking, you need to get down to their level and maintain eye contact.
State Your Message Clearly
You need to use simple words and sentences while talking slowly and clearly. Your tone should be one of reassurance. You should never raise your voice and try to pitch your voice lower instead of higher.
If the person does not understand what you say, you need to repeat yourself in the same wording. If they still have problems understanding you, wait a few minutes before rephrasing what you want to say. You should use the names of people and places instead of pronouns and abbreviations.
Ask Simple And Answerable Questions
When asking questions, you need to do this one at a time. Yes and no questions are also the best to use. You should avoid any open-ended questions or providing the person with too make options. An example of this will be asking if they want to wear the white shirt or the blue shirt.
It is best if you can provide the person with visual prompts as well. This will help to clarify the question and guide their answer. Make the question easy for them to understand and to answer.
Listen With More Than Your Ears
You need to be patient with your loved one and use more than your hearing to listen to their responses. If they are struggling to answer you, it is fine to use suggestive words. You need to take the time to look for nonverbal cues and pay attention to their body language. Listening for their meaning and feelings under the words they say is vital to good communication.
Break Activities Down Into Steps
Doing this will make tasks seem more manageable for your loved one. You should encourage them to complete what they can and then assist with the steps they cannot handle on their own. Make use of visual cues like showing them with your hands what the next step is should they forget.
When It Gets Hard, Distract And Redirect
People with dementia can become agitated and upset. When this happens, you need to change the subject or environment. One of the ways to do this will be to suggest a walk. Of course, you should connect with what they are feeling before you redirect their attention. To do this, you can simply tell them that you see they are feeling sad and that you are sorry they are upset.
Respond With Reassurance And Affection
People who suffer from dementia will often feel anxious, confused and unsure. They can also get reality confused with the past and recall things that never actually happened. It is important that you not try to convince them they are wrong.
You need to focus on their feelings instead and respond with physical and verbal comfort, reassurance and support. Holding their hand, hugging them and praising them will often help when all else fails.
Remember The Old Days
Remembering the past can be soothing and a lot of people with dementia will not remember what happened in the recent past. However, they will be able to recall what happened 40 years ago. This is why you should avoid questions that rely on short-term memory and focus more on questions from the distant past. This information is more likely to be retained by them.
Keep A Sense of Humor
When possible, you need to use humor, but not at the expense of the person. People with dementia have their social skills and will love laughing with you.