How To Talk To Someone With Dementia?
Communication is such an important part of how we connect with each other on a human level. It’s not only a way to tell other people what we need or how we feel but a way of expressing ourselves and individuality.
However, as a progressive illness, dementia can make effective communication difficult. This generally happens little-by-little over a period of time because dementia slowly affects the ability to process information. The result can be delayed responses, problems understanding what is being said and difficulty finding the right words in response. Alongside this, other health conditions such as hearing problems can compound communication difficulties which may cause a person to withdraw or feel anxious about socialising.
Talking To Someone With Dementia
If you care for someone with dementia or want to know how to best communicate with individuals in the community with dementia, there are ways to do so effectively. Although a person may struggle to communicate, it’s important that we take steps to ensure they are heard and included.
Consider The Environment
The environment around you can have a big impact on effective communication. For example, a loud radio or TV may be distracting or too difficult to hear over. Therefore, take care to ensure the area you are in lends itself to effective communication. Sit in front of the person, make eye contact and ensure you are close enough for them to hear you. Minimise distractions as far as possible and make sure you have the person’s full attention before you start.
Think Before You Speak
The way you speak is really important when it comes to communicating, too. Individuals with dementia may need more time to process information before responding, so speak a little slower than you normally would and pause for longer to give them time to think about what you’re saying. Be calm, with open body language, and aim to make your voice clear without shouting. Getting frustrated or upset is a totally normal response if you are struggling to communicate effectively, but try not to let this impact on your tone of voice as the individual will pick up on your emotions and may feel guilty or frustrated themselves.
Keep It Simple
Too much information can overwhelm a person with dementia and make communication even more difficult. For this reason, keep it simple. Break everything down into small, manageable chunks and try not to ask too many questions in quick succession. This can be overwhelming and frustrating for someone who is struggling to keep up. Closed-ended questions (ones that require only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer) are more effective than asking open-ended questions. For example, rather than ask them “What would you like to drink?” you could ask “Would you like orange juice or tea?”. Giving options (along with non-verbal cues such as pointing to an item) can make it much easier to communicate and take the pressure off the person replying.
Communication is a two-way street. So, as well as talking carefully you have to listen carefully too. Be encouraging when a person is speaking. Although it might be tempting to finish sentences for them, try not to anticipate what they are going to say. Instead, ask them to explain in a different way. A person’s body language can also communicate lots of different feelings, emotions and needs. Therefore, pay close attention and keep a lookout for clues. The way someone holds themselves, or their habits, can give a clear indication of what they need.
Memory & Dementia Care From Lovett Care
At Lovett Care, we specialise in Dementia and Memory Care across our care homes. All of our staff are experienced and highly-trained in communicating effectively and caring for individuals with dementia. If you would like to learn more about our residential, dementia, memory, day or respite care, please contact our team today.