We chose the title of this post quite purposefully, as we hope to distinguish between communication and “effective” communication, especially as it pertains to communicating with a person who suffers from moderate-to-severe dementia. It can be devastating to a family member who longs to reach their loved one. These tips on effective communication with dementia patients are as helpful in a clinical setting as they are with a layperson in other settings. Of course, the keys to effective communication transcend even this article to our personal and professional lives, for the purpose of this article we will be examining some tips which are specific to caring for and effectively communicating with someone who has dementia.
Dementia inevitably gets worse with time. People with dementia will gradually have a more difficult time understanding others, as well as communicating in general.
Try to find a place and time to talk when there aren’t a lot of distractions present. This allows your loved one to focus all their mental energy on the conversation.
Refrain from “baby-talk” or any other kind of condescension.
Avoid pronouns like “he,” “she,” and “they” during conversation. Names are also important when greeting a loved one with dementia. For example: “Hi, Grandma. It’s me, Jeff,” is to be preferred over, “Hi. It’s me.”
Someone with dementia may not be able to engage in the mental juggling involved in maintaining a conversation with multiple threads.
For example, maintain eye contact and smile. This helps put your loved one at ease and will facilitate understanding. Keep in mind that when dementia is very advanced, nonverbal communication may be the only option available.
If you don’t understand something your loved one is telling you, politely let them know.
Your conversations are not likely to go very far if you try to correct every inaccurate statement your loved one makes. It’s okay to let delusions and misstatements go.
Give your loved one extra time to process what you say. If you ask a question, give a moment to respond. Don’t let frustration get the better of you.
While the general trend for those living with dementia is a downward decline, people with dementia will have ups and downs just like anyone else.