Tips For Communicating With A Person With Dementia
Dementia affects everyone differently so it’s important to communicate in a way that is right for the person. Listen carefully and think about what you’re going to say and how you’ll say it. You can also communicate meaningfully without using spoken words.
These tips apply to however the person usually communicates, for example speaking English or signing British Sign Language.
Every persons experience of dementia is unique, so not every tip may be helpful to the person you care for. Use the tips that you feel will improve communication between you.
Before you communicate
Encouraging Someone With Dementia To Communicate
Try to start conversations with the person you’re looking after, especially if you notice that they’re starting fewer conversations themselves. It can help to:
- speak clearly and slowly, using short sentences
- make eye contact with the person when they’re talking or asking questions
- give them time to respond, because they may feel pressured if you try to speed up their answers
- encourage them to join in conversations with others, where possible
- let them speak for themselves during discussions about their welfare or health issues
- try not to patronise them, or ridicule what they say
- acknowledge what they have said, even if they do not answer your question, or what they say seems out of context show that you’ve heard them and encourage them to say more about their answer
- give them simple choices avoid creating complicated choices or options for them
- use other ways to communicate such as rephrasing questions because they cannot answer in the way they used to
Keeping The Conversation Going
Dr Jennifer Bute, who has dementia, talks about the importance of patterns in speech and conversations. She says: If one can catch a flavour or hint of what the person is talking about, and can latch on to that, often the person can pick up on the pattern .
Dr Bute who was a GP before she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers disease and whose father had dementia talks about speech and questions in an educational video on her website.
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What Support Is Available For Me If I Care For Someone With Dementia
When youre caring for someone else, its easy to overlook your own needs. But looking after your health and making time for yourself can help you feel better and cope better with your caring role.
Caring for someone with dementia may lead to feelings of guilt, sadness, confusion or anger. Unlike with other conditions, it can be difficult to share these feelings with someone with dementia, leaving you feeling very isolated.
Its important to acknowledge these feelings, and theres no right or wrong way to feel. If youre feeling anxious, depressed or struggling to cope stressed, talk to your doctor who can let you know about help and support available to you.
New Approaches For Dealing With Difficult Dementia Behaviors
1 6 15 New Approaches Difficult Behaviors
When most people think of someone with Alzheimers disease or dementia, they picture a senior with a benign, slightly confused demeanor who repeats themselves. But, there is a whole spectrum of other types of behaviors associated with the disease that most of us wouldnt describe as slightly or pleasantly confused by any stretch of the imagination.
From angry outbursts to more physical manifestations of behavior, understanding and dealing with our loved ones dementia behaviors may be one of the most stressful parts of being a caregiver. Fortunately, these tips listed below can help you get through the moment.
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What About Communicating On The Phone Or Via Video Chat
Talking on the phone can be so difficult. Many of us realize this when we call someone with Alzheimers. The calls we once made and were easy can become so quiet and one sided. While there is no magic to having a fruitful call with someone with Alzheimers, there are ways to enhance the dialogue. And again, it starts with a plan.
Things To Say To Someone With Alzheimers
Seeing someone you care about experience Alzheimers or another type of dementia is painstakingly difficult. Knowing what to say to someone whos lost his or her memory can also be hard. However, how you approach conversations can have a significant impact on your loved one.
The most important tip for communication with someone living with Alzheimers is to meet them where they are, said Ruth Drew, director of Information and Support Services at the Alzheimers Association. In the early stage of the disease, a person is still able to have meaningful conversations, but may repeat stories, feel overwhelmed by excessive stimulation, or have difficulty finding the right word. Be patient and understand that their brain is not working in the way it once did.
As the disease progresses, communicating with that person may become even more challenging. However, if you recognize the changes and challenges that come with dementia, you will more easily be able to alter your conversations with that person to meet his or her needs.
This may require slowing down and making eye contact with the person as you speak, says Drew. Use short, simple sentences, ask one question at a time, and give the person time to process and respond before continuing the conversation. If you are kind, gentle and relaxed, everything will work better.
Read on for six helpful things to say to those with Alzheimers, and three topics and phrases experts recommend avoiding.
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Dont Counter Aggressive Behavior
People with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s may become aggressive in response to the environment. Bath time is often when the aggressive behavior is displayed. The caregivers and/or family member’s approach may also play a part. Rushing, speaking harshly, or forcing a person may result in an aggressive response. When someone with memory loss displays aggressive behavior, it is a form of communication. It may be the only way a person has left to say, Pay attention to me! I don’t want to take a bath! When someone is communicating vigorously, it is the caregivers and/or family member’s job to respect that communication. Hitting, kicking, or biting are ways of saying, stop. The appropriate response is to stop. That doesnt mean not to try again in five minutes or a half an hour.
Keep Things Simpleand Other Tips
Caregivers cannot stop Alzheimers-related changes in personality and behavior, but they can learn to cope with them. Here are some tips:
- Keep things simple. Ask or say one thing at a time.
- Have a daily routine, so the person knows when certain things will happen.
- Reassure the person that he or she is safe and you are there to help.
- Focus on his or her feelings rather than words. For example, say, You seem worried.
- Dont argue or try to reason with the person.
- Try not to show your frustration or anger. If you get upset, take deep breaths and count to 10. If its safe, leave the room for a few minutes.
- Use humor when you can.
- Give people who pace a lot a safe place to walk. Provide comfortable, sturdy shoes. Give them light snacks to eat as they walk, so they dont lose too much weight, and make sure they have enough to drink.
- Try using music, singing, or dancing to distract the person.
- Ask for help. For instance, say, Lets set the table or I need help folding the clothes.
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Dont Answer Questions Of Patient/loved Ones Regarding Bad Memories
People with Alzheimer’s often ask difficult questions, mostly about people who have passed away years ago. Its not helpful to remind the patient and/or loved one that a person theyre asking about has passed away. Rather than avoid the subject, you can say, He/shes not here right now, but tell me about him/her. Often the person with memory loss is looking for the sensation and security that they would have if their loved one was around.
Caregivers and/or family members should be helping patients and/or loved ones comfortable, safe, and protected. Elderly women, for example, who have had children commonly ask, Where are my babies? This question will often come up at meal time, when feeding the children was an important part of motherhood. Find a way to soothe their concern. You could say, The babies are sleeping.
As stated earlier, trying to bring a person with Alzheimer’s the present-day reality is not effective. Caregivers and/or family members should adapt to the patient and/or loved ones reality. Its ok to go anywhere in any time period in order to communicate.
Tips For Dementia Care
Dementia can be challenging for both patients and caregivers but knowing what to expect can help ease the journey. Caregivers may not be able to anticipate the level of dementia on a daily basis, but they can be prepared to manage the varying symptoms of dementia as they progress.
The different stages of dementia require different degrees of caregiving. 2 With mild dementia, people may still be able to function independently, however, theyll experience memory lapses that affect daily life, such as forgetting words or where things are located.
People experiencing moderate dementia will likely need more assistance in their daily lives as it becomes harder for them to perform daily activities and self-care. They may hallucinate, get lost easily and forget where they are, and not remember what day of the week it is.
Someone with severe dementia will likely lose their ability to communicate and need full-time daily assistance with tasks such as eating and dressing. They may not remember their own name or the names of others. Physical activity and ability may be seriously impaired and they may be more susceptible to infections, such as pneumonia.
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How Can I Support Someone With Dementia Towards The End Of Life
Knowing the person will make it easier to provide person-centred care that is focused on what they need and want. It can help to know about their likes, dislikes and their wishes for how they want to be cared for. If the person isnt able to tell you about themselves, speak to their family, friends or other people who know them well.
Its a good idea to find out if the person has a copy of This is me , a document that records information about themselves. If you cant speak to the person, ask those close to them if they have a copy. They may have these details recorded in their care plan.
There are many ways to support someone with dementia at the end of life.
Tips For Connecting To Someone With Dementia
As your loved one progresses through the disease, it can sometimes feel like the friendship has changed. When normal activities such as taking walks, going to the movies, or playing cards, become more difficult, you may need some inspiration to maintain the connection. The Family Caregiver Alliance has compiled some of their best tips to stay connected to your loved one as they continue on their journey with dementia or Alzheimers disease:
Start with Positivity. Those with Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia can often pick up on body language to convey a message more quickly than words. Setting a positive mood with physical touch, facial expressions, and tone of voice will help communicate your message and feelings of affection.
Limit Distractions. Competing sounds and noises, like loud music or television, can add to the confusion for those with dementia. You might consider turning off these distractions or move to a quieter setting. As the disease progresses, you may need to identify yourself by your name and relation, address your loved one by their name and maintain eye contact.
Be Mindful When You Ask to Visit. Many of those living with dementia or Alzheimers have good and bad times during the day, especially for those who experience sundowning. Before your visit, ask their caregiver which time of day is best for your loved one and schedule the visit around their preferences.
Communicating And Interacting With People With Dementia
Dr. Rita Armstrong offers valuable advice to help improve communication and provide quality care to a person living with dementia.
As a nurse, the goal is to treat patients with respect, patience, and understanding. For patients with dementia, this is especially necessary. Dementia affects 47.5 million people worldwide. With Americas population continuing to live for longer periods of time, the 33 percent of people ages 85 and older with Alzheimers may not be as rare as one may believe.
Dementia is an umbrella term for conditions involving cognitive impairmentwith symptoms that include memory loss, personality changes, and issues with language, communication, and thinking. More than 60 percent of dementia cases are people with Alzheimers. With improvements in health and people tending to live longer, loved ones can expect care costs to reach as high as $1 trillion by 2030.
I have been on both sides of the fence in talking about dementia. I have taken care of patients with dementia and Alzheimers as a nurse, and I recently took care of my dad who also had dementia. Communication and how a person interacts with people who have dementia is vital to patient care outcomes. Sometimes we do not realize what we say or how we say things that can trigger distress behaviors, which makes it even more difficult to give quality care to a person living with dementia.
How To Talk To Someone With Dementia Alzheimer’s Or Memory Loss
Communicating with a person with memory loss can be difficult, but the right strategies can bridge the gap and foster a more fulfilling relationship between you and your patient or loved one.
Those struggling to communicate with a person who has memory loss are not alone. As many as four million people in the US may have Alzheimer’s, and, as our population ages, that number is expected to increase. Anyone who is a senior caregiver is likely to be affected and will need to understand how to cope with what is happening.
Memory loss associated with aging, dementia, and Alzheimer’s typically doesnt happen overnight. Slowly, little-by-little, it sneaks up, until one day, family members realize that they can no longer communicate in the same way with the person they’ve known for years. They suddenly can’t rely on their words and their sentences dont match the situation.
Because we cannot see the diseasethe way we see a broken armits even more confusing when caregivers see how their patient and/or loved one will have good and bad days. The days when theyre alert and clear-headed make a caregiver hopeful. Then the bad days come, and family members and caregivers feel the pain of losing their patient and/or loved one all over again. This slow and normal progression of the disease makes communication a major challenge for caregivers.
This blog will share more information and advice to improve communication, including:
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Know The Signs Of Dementia
Early diagnosis can help people with dementia plan for the future, and might mean they can access interventions that help slow down the disease. Being familiar with the signs of dementia can help people receive a diagnosis as early as possible.
Early signs that a person might have dementia can include:
- being vague in everyday conversations
- memory loss that affects day-to-day function
- short term memory loss
- difficulty performing everyday tasks and taking longer to do routine tasks
- losing enthusiasm or interest in regular activities
- difficulties in thinking or saying the right words
- changes in personality or behaviour
- finding it difficult to follow instructions
- finding it difficult to follow stories
- increased emotional unpredictability.
Dont Say No Dont Or Cant
One of the biggest mistakes in dealing with patients and/or loved ones with memory loss is being negative and telling them that they cant do something. Words like no,” don’t, or can’t create resistance. This comes up regularly with family members when the patient and/or loved one might be still driving, and the caregiver and/or family member has made the decision to stop them from driving. One should never say, You can’t drive anymore. They can still technically drive , and they can get very combative when told no. A way to counter this is to say, I know you still can drive, that’s not even a question, but you know what happened the other day? I was out on the highway and this car cut me off, and I had to make a split-second decision it was really scary Its likely they will say, You know what? I’m having a little trouble with those decisions too. The issue isn’t the mechanical driving, it has more to do with comprehension, and many times this answer works much better than, You can’t drive anymore, which can be construed as confrontational.
You may find a patient and/or loved one up too early or confused about time. Instead of using messages such as, Youre up too early, you need to go to bed, try leading with statements such as, You know, I’m getting sleepy. Id like a little snack before I go to bed, and then gesture for the patient and/or loved one to sit with you.
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Helping Someone With Everyday Tasks
In the early stages of dementia, many people are able to enjoy life in the same way as before their diagnosis.
But as symptoms get worse, the person may feel anxious, stressed and scared at not being able to remember things, follow conversations or concentrate.
It’s important to support the person to maintain skills, abilities and an active social life. This can also help how they feel about themselves.