Caring for an elderly loved one can be fraught with complications and challenges for caregivers and families. When that loved one is dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the problems are amplified. These brain disorders make it difficult for them to think clearly, maintain distinct memories and eventually prevent them from communicating with others.
Many caregivers wonder how to best deal with these situations? And what advice is there for conserving a connection with our elderly? The Alzheimer Society of Canada stresses that we should never underestimate the art of conversation. Clear, concise two-way communication will improve our relationships with seniors, and over time benefit their quality of life.
Here we discuss some helpful tips to alleviate stress and frustration when speaking with people facing Dementia and memory difficulties. These techniques will in turn advance interaction and positive communication between you and your loved one.
Identify yourself and use their name
Approach the person from the font and clearly state your name, along with who you are. Always remember to use their name when conversing. Along with eye contact this will help them feel comfortable and successfully connect with you.
Always offer patience and support
More time will be needed for effective and productive conversation with dementia patients. Accept this, and be sure to move at their pace. It is fine to suggest words if they are struggling to finish a sentence.
Unspoken communication is key
The words shared between you and your loved one are wonderful, but always pay attention to the words that are not said as well. Non-verbal cues and body language are crucial, and feel free to encourage the person to gesture or point if you don’t understand what is being said.
Reassurance and positivity
People with dementia often face confusion and anxiety. By using familiar language and situations, we aim to put them at ease and reassure them. Positive rather than negative statements work in the same way. Instead of saying, “We can’t go here,” a better suggestion would be “Let’s go this way.”
Speak slowly, distinctively and succinctly
It is important that you stay aware of the speed, tone and clarity of your speech. Keep your voice and pace consistent, and remember a lower pitch is generally more calming and effective. Also, you must always use words effectively. Try to speak in short, simple sentences, and refrain from excessive questioning or large amounts of detail. Brevity is best.
Always treat them with respect
Your loved one deserves dignity. Never speak down to a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or speak to other company as if the affected weren’t in the room. Humor can be a wonderful way to get you both through difficult times, but always be sure not to use it at the person’s expense.
Communication Strategies: Ways to Maximize Success when Communicating with Someone with Dementia, a webinar presented by brainXchange
36 Hour Day: Family Guide to Caring for People who have Alzheimer’s Disease, Related Dementias and Memory Loss
Johns Hopkins Press Health Book, 2011
The Validation Breakthrough: Simple Techniques for Communicating with People with Alzheimer’s-Type Dementia
Naomi Feil, Health Professions Press, Baltimore, MD, 2.ª edición, 2002