How to Communicate with Someone with Dementia
It can be a daunting and lonely time, not only for someone with dementia, but also for their loved ones. If you are caring for somebody with Alzheimer’s disease, you may feel unsure on how to address them, what you should and shouldn’t say, or you may be scared of causing offence.
Take a look at our 8 insightful tips which will hopefully help when speaking to those who are living with the disease.
Be yourself. Your friendship, support and guidance are important to the person, so be honest and frank about your feelings. They will appreciate you for being you.
Don’t be afraid of laughter. Humour can lighten the mood, create positive vibes and may help the person with their communication skills.
Don’t tell them they’re wrong. This can cause extreme upset and embarrassment for the person. They are already probably very aware that they can no longer recall information the way they used to, so don’t reinforce this fact. Let the person save face and move on with the conversation.
Be patient. Allow the person time to respond; by offering your comfort and reassurance, you will encourage the person to explain their thoughts. If you finish their sentence or interrupt mid-conversation, you risk breaking the pattern of communication
Don’t exclude them. Be sure to include him or her in your conversations with others and don’t talk about them as if they aren’t there. They will appreciate you treating them with dignity and respect.
Don’t overwhelm them. If they need guidance or help with tasks, try to offer clear, step-by-step instructions; avoid lengthy or complicated requests as you don’t want to cause them distress.
Don’t dismiss their worries. They may often feel sad, confused, hurt or angry. Let them express these emotions – sometimes the best thing you can do is to just be there and listen. It will provide them with a safe space and will in turn build trust between you both.
Explore alternatives. If the person doesn’t understand what you are saying, try rephrasing, or use other means of communication, rather than repeating yourself. Non-verbal communications can help greatly, particularly towards the later stages of dementia, e.g. pointing at a picture of someone you are talking about or using written notes if a spoken word seems confusing.
Remember: It’s OK if you don’t know what to say or do sometimes. Just be there - your presence and friendship are most important to the person.