Tips for Successful Communication with People Living with Dementia
Dementia gradually diminishes a person's ability to communicate, with Alzheimer's disease being the most common cause of dementia. Dementia can be extremely challenging to cope with, both for the person living with the disease and for family, friends, and caregivers. To help ease this very trying time, it is crucial to always strive for meaningful communication with your loved one during all the stages of dementia. Communication with a person with dementia or Alzheimer's requires patience, understanding and good listening skills. Here are strategies recommended by the Alzheimer’s Association that can help both you and the person with dementia understand each other better.
Communication in the Early Stages of Dementia
In the early stages of dementia, a person with dementia can carry on normal conversations; however, he or she may repeat stories, feel overwhelmed by excessive stimulation, or have difficulty finding the right words at times.
- Do not exclude the person with dementia from conversations.
- Speak directly to the person rather than to his or her caregiver or companion.
- Take time to listen to the person express his or her thoughts, feelings and needs.
- Give the person time to respond. Don’t interrupt unless help is requested.
- Don’t pull away; your honesty, friendship, and support are still important to the person.
Communication in the Middle Stages of Dementia
The middle stages of dementia are typically the longest and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, the person will have greater difficulty communicating and will require more direct care.
- Engage the person in one-on-one conversation in a quiet space that has minimal distractions.
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Be patient and offer reassurance.
- Ask one question at a time.
- Ask yes or no questions. For example, “Would you like some coffee?” rather than “What would you like to drink?”
- Avoid arguments. If the person says something you do not agree with, do not be antagonizing or confrontational.
Communication in the Late Stages of Dementia
The late stages of dementia may last from several weeks to several years. As the disease advances, the person may rely on nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions or vocal sounds. Around-the-clock care is usually required in the late stages of dementia.
- Approach the person from the front and identify yourself.
- Encourage nonverbal communication. If you do not understand what the person is trying to say, ask him or her to point or gesture.
- Use touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste as forms of communication with the person.
- Treat the person with dignity and respect. Avoid talking down to the person or as if he or she is not there.
- It is alright if you don’t know what to say to the person at times; your presence and friendship are most important.
- Memory care can help seniors with dementia.
Memory care communities specialize in dementia communication strategies and caring for seniors who have dementia. At Assisted Living Locators of Northern Virginia, we are dementia care certified, so if you are seeing signs your loved one needs more care, call us today or click the link below. We can connect you with memory care communities in Northern Virginia and the surrounding area and provide other helpful resources nearby.
For more information or no-cost assistance with independent living, assisted living, memory care, or other senior living options in Northern Virginia’s Prince William County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Arlington County, or Alexandria, please call our local elder care experts today at (703) 878-7870 or contact us via e-mail.