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How To Talk To A Loved One With Dementia

Caregiving In The Early Stages Of Alzheimers Or Dementia


In the early stages of Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia, your loved one may not need much caregiving assistance. Rather, your role initially may be to help them come to terms with their diagnosis, plan for the future, and stay as active, healthy, and engaged as possible.

Accept the diagnosis. Accepting a dementia diagnosis can be just as difficult for family members as it for the patient. Allow yourself and your loved one time to process the news, transition to the new situation, and grieve your losses. But dont let denial prevent you from seeking early intervention.

Deal with conflicting emotions. Feelings of anger, frustration, disbelief, grief, denial, and fear are common in the early stages of Alzheimers or dementiafor both the patient and you, the caregiver. Let your loved one express what theyre feeling and encourage them to continue pursuing activities that add meaning and purpose to their life. To deal with your own fears, doubts, and sadness, find others you can confide in.

Make use of available resources. There are a wealth of community and online resources to help you provide effective care on this journey. Start by finding the Alzheimers Association in your country . These organizations offer practical support, helplines, advice, and training for caregivers and their families. They can also put you in touch with local support groups.

Conversation Starters For Seniors With Dementia

One of the scariest things a person can learn is that their parent, grandparent, or other close person has dementia. The moment a diagnosis is made, it can feel as though the world turns upside down. You go from being confident in your ability to take care of them to wondering if they may need assisted living care. It is scary and confusing. You want to help but may feel inadequate. The truth is, you and other family members can help your loved one adjust to the changes that they are facing just by being there for them. For instance, when they start to lose focus or get overwhelmed by a situation, you can re-ground them. It will eliminate their stress and yours. The best way to do this is to learn about different conversation starters for seniors with dementia or memory loss.

How To Talk To Your Loved One With Alzheimers One By One

There are two things to keep in mind when you want to talk to your loved one with dementia:

  • Keep your sentences short and direct.
  • Include only one thought per each sentence.
  • This is a skill that needs to be learned, because were so used to utilizing words to keep a conversation friendly and flowing and to show how much we care. Now youre going to do the opposite: youre going to use;less;words and;less;ideas but for the same purpose: to show how much you care.

    Note: Its easy to let your tone become colder and more distant when you use short, limited sentences. Keep that in mind, and make sure your tone stays warm and caring even if your style feels cramped. You will get used to it. Really.

    Here we go.

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    Tips For Starting A Conversation With A Loved One With Dementia

    When a loved one is experiencing Alzheimers disease or other forms of dementia, one of the biggest challenges that family members and caregivers face is how to continue to have positive and meaningful conversations with their loved one. The types of conversations that were once enjoyed may no longer interest or make sense to a person with memory loss, and family members are left wondering how to engage and connect.

    Fortunately, there are some specific communication techniques that help. If you are caring for a person with memory loss, follow the five tips below to begin engaging and positive interactions:

    What To Say When Theres Nothing Left To Say

    How to Talk with a Loved One with Dementia

    Your discussion with a loved one following a dementia diagnosis can be one of lifes most difficult conversations. But with a little preparation and a lot of listening, you will get through it. This will help you set the stage for a different, yet still rewarding, relationship with someone you treasure.

    Read Also: What Is The Difference Between Dementia And Senility

    How To Talk To A Loved One Or Patient With Dementia

    One of the greatest challenges of caring for a senior with dementia can be watching them have a difficult time with communication. Struggling with conversation can be frustrating for them, too. Dementia often affects a seniors capability to think, understand, and stay focused on a conversation. But fortunately, there several steps you can take that can help your senior have more successful conversations. Read through our tips below and learn how you can get a good conversation started.

    Be Prepared

    Are you ready? The first step begins with YOU. Successful conversation often starts with you being calm, cool, and collected. You want to be in a patient and relaxed state of mind so that your senior perceives you as pleasant your actions feel genuine to them.

    Set the Environment

    Once you are feeling calm and relaxed, arrange the environment to reflect those same feelings. Make the space serene by removing distractions such as noisiness and bright colors. The environment should be well-lit to make it easier for your senior to see you and focus on you during conversation.

    Speak Slowly and Clearly

    Be Aware of Your Non-Verbal Actions

    Do not underestimate the power of your body language and non-verbal actions. These are crucial in helping your senior feel comfortable and respond to conversation. A friendly smile or making reassuring eye contact with your loved one can go a long way.

    Communicating Through Body Language And Physical Contact

    Communication is not just talking. Gestures, movement and facial expressions can all convey meaning or help you get a message across. Body language and physical contact become significant when speech is difficult for a person with dementia.

    When someone has difficulty speaking or understanding, try to:

    • be patient and remain calm, which can help the person communicate more easily
    • keep your tone of voice positive and friendly, where possible
    • talk to them at a respectful distance to avoid intimidating them being at the same level or lower than they are can also help
    • pat or hold the person’s hand while talking to them to help reassure them and make you feel closer watch their body language and listen to what they say to see whether they’re comfortable with you doing this

    It’s important that you encourage the person to communicate what they want, however they can. Remember, we all find it frustrating when we cannot communicate effectively, or are misunderstood.

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    Free Resource For Family Caregivers Of Loved Ones With Dementia

    Right at Home created a free guide to help caregivers of older adults with Alzheimers disease or related form of dementia. The guide was built on the foundation of Right at Homes approach to supporting those with dementia, which focuses on a persons abilities, personhood, and the lifestyle risk factors known to increase symptoms. Visit our Alzheimers, Dementia and Cognitive Change webpage for more information and to download the guide.

    Dont Put Off The Conversation

    How to Talk to Someone With Dementia

    Drew encourages families to have a talk about Alzheimers symptoms and plan for care as early as possible even before a family member exhibits signs of the disease.

    But even when someone is already in the early stages of Alzheimers, they may still be able to express their wishes and have a voice in their future care.

    I have never had a family come to me and say, Weve talked about this too soon, says Drew. Its always the reverse. They always wish they had done these things at the beginning instead of waiting. In some cases, families wait too long to put things in order and have conversations when a person is still well enough to let you know what his or her preferences are.

    Furthermore, the sooner people get medical advice about potential Alzheimers symptoms, the better.

    Early signs can indicate Alzheimers, or maybe its something different, says Drew. It may be something that is very treatable and curable.

    Although there are no treatments to cure Alzheimers or stop it from progressing, some medication can help decrease symptoms for a limited time.

    Some medications seem to work better the earlier people start them, so there is that benefit, says Drew.

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    Also Check: What Is The Difference Between Dementia And Senility

    Plan Specific Ways To Start The Conversation

    Use these conversation starters:

    • Ive been thinking through my own long-term care plans lately and I was wondering if you have any advanced planning tips for me?
    • I was wondering if youve noticed the same changes in your behavior that Ive noticed?
    • Would you want to know if I noticed any concerning changes in your behavior?

    Speak Clearly And Naturally

    While its important to speak clearly when talking to a loved one with dementia, theres no need to default to baby talk or other unintentional forms of condescension. Treat your loved one with respect as you have conversations with him or her by:

    • Using a warm, loving tone
    • Talking normally and not in an overly simplistic way
    • Refraining from shouting in an attempt to increase your loved ones understanding if he or she appears to be confused, as this only creates more confusion and frustration
    • ;Pausing long enough to give your loved one time to fully take in what youre saying

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    Ten Tips For Communicating With A Person With Dementia

    We arenât born knowing how to communicate with a person with dementiaâbut we can learn. Improving your communication skills will help make caregiving less stressful and will likely improve the quality of your relationship with your loved one. Good communication skills will also enhance your ability to handle the difficult behavior you may encounter as you care for a person with a dementing illness.

  • Set a positive mood for interaction. Your attitude and body language communicate your feelings and thoughts more strongly;than your words do. Set a positive mood by speaking to your loved one in a pleasant and respectful manner. Use facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection.
  • Get the personâs attention. Limit distractions and noiseâturn off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings. Before speaking, make sure you have her attention; address her by name, identify yourself by name and relation, and use nonverbal cues and touch to help keep her focused. If she is seated, get down to her level and maintain eye contact.
  • Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart. Be patient in waiting for your loved oneâs reply. If she is struggling for an answer, itâs okay to suggest words. Watch for nonverbal cues and body language, and respond appropriately. Always strive to listen for the meaning and feelings that underlie the words.
  • Dont Use Slang Or Figures Of Speech

    How to Speak Dementia with Your Loved One

    As dementia progresses, it can become harder for someone to understand what youre trying to tell them. For example, telling a loved one with Alzheimers disease that its “no use crying over spilled milk” might result in him looking to see where the milk has spilled, rather than end up comforting him or encouraging him not to focus on a past problem.

    In fact, the proverb interpretation test, which asks the test taker to interpret abstract ideas such as the spilled milk reference above, is one way to screen for symptoms of dementia.

    Read Also: Does Meredith Have Alzheimer’s

    Look For And Use Nonverbal Cues

    Get a better idea of how well your loved one comprehends what youre saying by watching his or her eyes and other facial expressions. This approach should make it easier for you to know when to slow down or say something a bit more clearly to increase comprehension. Also, when dementia gets more advanced, nonverbal communication involving visual cues may become your loved ones main form of communication. Nonverbal cues that can be helpful include:

    • Making direct eye contact

    Learning A New Communication Style

    It pains me to think I caused her any grief then about something she couldnt control. As a caregiver, my mantra in dealing with my accomplished, loving parents and stepfather has always been dignity, choice and control. My slip was a reminder of how easy it is to miss the signs of cognitive impairment.

    My new goal became learning smart ways to communicate with a loved one who has dementia.

    For some caregivers, its just a matter of adjusting your words and actions a little bit, and accepting inevitable memory slips. For others, it may be a matter of overcoming dread, especially for those with a loved one in the late stages of the condition. Its much harder to walk through the door to greet someone who doesnt recognize you or care to interact.

    Based on my experiences and those of several experts I contacted, here are nine tips for how to avoid common pitfalls and make it easier for you to have meaningful visits with someone who has dementia:

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    Tips For Caregivers And Families Of People With Dementia

    On this page

    A caregiver, sometimes referred to as a caretaker, refers to anyone who provides care for another person. Millions of people living in the United States take care of a friend or family member with Alzheimers disease or a related dementia. Sometimes caregivers live with the person or nearby, other times they live far away. For many families, caring for a person with dementia isnt just one persons job, but the role of many people who share tasks and responsibilities. No matter what kind of caregiver you are, taking care of another person can be overwhelming at times. These tips and suggestions may help with everyday care and tasks.

    Should You Tell The Person They Have Alzheimer’s

    How to talk on the phone to someone with dementia?

    Families may frequently ask, Should I tell the person that he/she has Alzheimer’s? Keep in mind that the patient and/or loved one can’t reason. They don’t have enough memory to remember the question, then think it through to form a conclusion. Caregivers and/or family members may often think if they tell;the person with memory loss;that he/she has Alzheimer’s, then he/she will understand and cooperate. You cant get cooperation by explaining that he/she has the disease and expect him/her to remember and use that information.

    Read Also: What Is The Difference Between Dementia And Senility

    Its Time For Your Loved One To Eat Dinner

    What you might say:;Okay, Grandpa, its chow time! You must be starving by now. Lets see what we have here. Ooh, I see youve got grilled chicken, and broccoli, and roasted potatoes. Oh, wow, that looks so good. Remember when I was a kid and I hated broccoli so much you paid me to eat it?

    What you should say: Grandpa, its 6:30. Its time to eat dinner. Lets go to the kitchen/dining room together. Yum. Theres chicken, broccoli and potatoes

    How To Talk To Someone With Dementia: 10 Expert Alzheimers Communication Strategies

    It can be painful to witness the deterioration of a loved one with;;or any other type of dementia.;Fortunately, there are many kinds of;Alzheimers communication strategiesthat can help you maintain and build your bond with a loved one.

    Alzheimers and other dementias are difficult disease journeys, but there is so much opportunity for connection and success together, says Brenda Gurung, a certified dementia practitioner for the Alzheimers Association and a senior national account manager at A Place for Mom. When you understand even a bit of whats happening in the brain and when you embrace some simple techniques youll have more delightful visits with your loved one, deeper connections, and a smoother journey.

    Learn more about how dementia affects communication skills,;how to talk to someone with dementia, and discover 10 effective;Alzheimers communication strategiesto help.

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    Say What You Need To Saykindly

    Dont bombard your mom or dad with questions right away. Cover one thought or idea at a time and give them plenty of time to respond. They will likely be overwhelmed by the news and may not be able to process all of the details. Instead of getting upset, focus on speaking with kindness and validation. Using validation to communicate through dementia is an effective way to accept their reality and reduce agitation.

    As the disease progresses, if your parent isnt getting what you are trying to say, dont repeat the same question. Instead, try putting things another way. For instance, show them a photo of someone you are talking about. It can also be helpful to stick with questions that can be answered yes or no.

    Things To Remember If You Love Someone With Dementia

    How to Communicate with Loved Ones with Dementia
  • 2 11 15 Loving Someone With Dementia

  • February 6, 2019

    Caring for someone with Alzheimers disease is a difficult job, one that can cause caregivers a great amount of stress. However, if you love;someone with dementia, you know that the position can also bring joy into your life and be extremely rewarding;as well.

    In honor of the upcoming Valentines Day holiday, here are 20 things to remember when caring for a loved one with dementia.

    Also Check: What Is The Difference Between Dementia And Senility

    Should You Keep Trying To Communicate

    Family members may frequently ask, How often should I visit?, or, Should I visit at all, because they dont seem to be understanding what were saying, most of the time they dont seem to recognize me, etc. Caregivers can encourage family members to visit because its important to them. Also, the person with memory loss may catch some things on some days, and if family members can make the interaction a pleasant moment, it can be rewarding for both.

    Communication amongst family becomes particularly difficult when the person with dementia and/or Alzheimers doesn’t recognize family members anymore.;In this situation, a spouse or children can think that it doesnt do any good to go talk to the personthat anyone could talk to him/her because they dont remember who they are. But there is a richness that happens because of family history together, something that can only come from people that have been family or friends for a long time.;

    The type of communication families can get out of visits can be pulled from the strength of the patient and/or loved ones long-term memories. They can still talk about the past, and for family members, to hear those things are perhaps a worthwhile gift.

    Even though;the patient and/or loved one;can no longer communicate the way they used to, there are still other ways to enjoy time together. There is beauty and simplicity in being in the present moment.


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