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How To Talk To A Patient With Dementia

Tips To Improve Bath Time

How to Talk to Someone With Dementia

Prepare First: Have the soap and shampoo ready, as well as a large, warm towel.

Offer a Choice between a Bath or a Shower: Some people might not have a strong preference, but for many, providing this choice can improve the outcome. A lot of water in a tub may cause fear for some, while the spraying of a shower can make others anxious.

Adjust the Time of Day: If you dont know the persons typical routine, find out from the family if he liked to start his day out with a shower or enjoyed a bath before bed. Thats an important routine for many people, so honoring that for a person with dementia can go a long way toward a good outcome for both the person and the caregiver.

Routine: As much as possible, stick to a routine, both as it relates to the time of day for a shower and the steps you use when helping the person bathe. Using a consistent caregiver to maintain this routine can also be very helpful to both the caregiver and the person with dementia.

Ensure a Warm Room Temperature: Ensure that the room is warm enough. A cold room plus water does not equal a positive experience.

Encourage Independence: If the person is able, ask them to wash themselves. Independence can restore a little bit of the dignity thats lost when help is needed with bathing.

Offer a Caregiver of the Same Sex to Provide the Bath: If someone is embarrassed or becomes sexually inappropriate, offer a caregiver of the same sex to provide the shower.

Be Patient Listen And Dont Correct

The very best advice I can give for how to talk to someone with dementia is to be patient. Know that these conversations will not be like talking to your best friend or spouse. Dont treat your loved one like a child but avoid bringing up complicated topics or asking pointed questions.

Above all, listen. Dont feel the need to fill the space with your words. Let there be pauses and breaks in the conversation where your loved ones can collect their thoughts. When they make a mistake in the facts, dont feel the need to correct them every time. Does it really make a difference if they say your sibling played basketball in middle school when it was actually you?

Dont spend this precious time with your loved one trying to have conversations like you did in the past. Instead, go with an open mind and an open heart and meet them wherever they may be.

Do you have a loved one with dementia? How have you addressed challenges in communication? What advice would you give to your Sixty and Me sisters for talking to someone with dementia? Please share with the Sixty and Me community in the comments below.

Let’s Have a Conversation!

Tips From A Person With Dementia

Christine Bryden was diagnosed with dementia at age 46, and has shared a number of her insights about ways that families and friends can help a person with dementia. Christine is also the author of a number of publications, including Who will I be when I die?, the first book written by an Australian with dementia.

Christine provides these tips for communicating with a person with dementia:

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Reassure Them Of Their Safety

The desire to go home is probably the same desire anyone would have if we found ourselves in a strange and unreasonable place.

Try this instead:

Reassure the person verbally, and possibly with arm touches or hand-holding if this feels appropriate. Let the person know that they are safe.

It may help to provide reassurance that the person is still cared about. They may be living somewhere different from where they lived before, and need to know theyre cared for.

Understanding The Causes And Finding Ways To Cope

What to know when talking to someone with Alzheimer

While some people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia remain pleasant and easy-going throughout their lives, others develop intense feelings of anger and aggression.

When someone with dementia lashes out at you for seemingly no reason, it’s normal to feel surprised, discouraged, hurt, irritated, and even angry at them. Learning what causes anger in dementia, and how best to respond, can help you cope.

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Blocking Out Negativity Related To Dementia

Try using positive words in reference to people with dementia or Alzhiemers. I recall giving a report to a nurse during her shift, and verbally stating words such as aggressive, wandering, and sundowner. However, now that I really think about the negative perception those words can give, my vocabulary has changed. When I think of the word aggressive, I think of someone wanting to physically harm another or be combative when his or her behavior may genuinely be involuntary. When I think of what a sundowner is, it is when the sun goes down and a patient becomes out of control.

As nurses, the first thing we may say is, OK, I will have to get the Xanax or Ativan ready for this shift. As nurses, we think its OK to have these antipsychotic medications on standby. Wrong!

Every behavior being expressed is their way of trying to communicate to you that they have a need. Antipsychotic medications should be the last resort, not the first choice.

Other negative words to avoid:

  • Dementia sufferer
  • Distractions when interacting
  • Open-ended questions

The behavior we see and do not see

From nursing doors to my dad: When dementia became personal

Moving forward, we both saw the need for appropriate communication and how to modify those distress behaviors to produce positive health care outcomes. Although my dad is no longer with us, he has set the stage to teach, engage, and inspire health care providers to communicate and interact with people with dementia.

Caregiver Tips: How To Communicate With A Dementia Patient

Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking aspects of caring for a person with dementia is the feeling that you are losing the ability to connect with them. Maybe you used to enjoy long, stimulating conversations and you feel a profound sense of loss as you notice your loved ones communication skills slipping away. As a persons dementia progresses, they may have more difficulty with short-term memory and comprehension, or they may become frustrated when they cant find the right words to express themselves. Many dementia patients also make inappropriate comments, become demanding, easily frustrated, and even sarcastic or verbally abusive.

As challenging as it may be at times, communicating with your loved one with dementia is important for both of you. It is possible to adapt and stay connected. Keeping their needs in mind as time goes on can spare both of you a lot of frustration.

Also Check: What Is The Difference Between Senility And Dementia

The Very Best Advice I Can Give For How To Talk To Someone With Dementia Is To Be Patient

How to talk to someone with dementia. The alzheimers association will host a free alzheimers webinar education program on effective communication strategies on thursday, jan. Severe dementia often means that the person has lost their ability to control their own movements. When speaking with an individual with dementia, whether it be alzheimers disease, parkinsons disease dementia, vascular dementia, or any of the many other types of dementias, its important to bear in mind that you need to speak to that person differently than you would someone without dementia.

Ask if they need help: Use a clear, normal tone of voice to start a conversation with someone. How to communicate with people who have dementia:

While the early signs of dementia can be subtle, the condition becomes more evident as time goes on. By michelle wyman, dementia specialist hartford healthcare center for healthy aging. They might not do things the way they once did, or with the same swiftness, but they can still accomplish tasks.

Communicating with someone having dementia is a tough job. Avoid talking to a dementia sufferer while the radio or tv is turned on. Avoid speaking from another room or from behind.

You do this just with the tone of your voice and by continuing to talk. Listen carefully and think about what you’re going to say and how you’ll say it. Dont treat your loved one like a child but avoid bringing up complicated topics or asking pointed questions.

How To Talk To Someone With Dementia Alzheimer’s Or Memory Loss

How to Talk to Patients With Alzheimers or Dementia

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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What Not To Do

  • Dont argue. It will only make the situation worse
  • Dont order the person around
  • Dont tell them what they cant do. Instead state what they can do
  • Dont be condescending. A condescending tone of voice can be picked up, even if the words are not understood
  • Dont ask a lot of direct questions that rely on a good memory
  • Dont talk about people in front of them as if they are not there.

Adapted from Understanding difficult behaviours, by Anne Robinsons, Beth Spencer and Laurie White.

Repetitive Speech Or Actions

People with dementia will often repeat a word, statement, question, or activity over and over. While this type of behavior is usually harmless for the person with dementia, it can be annoying and stressful to caregivers. Sometimes the behavior is triggered by anxiety, boredom, fear, or environmental factors.

  • Provide plenty of reassurance and comfort, both in words and in touch.
  • Try distracting with a snack or activity.
  • Avoid reminding them that they just asked the same question. Try ignoring the behavior or question, and instead try refocusing the person into an activity such as singing or âhelpingâ you with a chore.
  • Donât discuss plans with a confused person until immediately prior to an event.
  • You may want to try placing a sign on the kitchen table, such as, âDinner is at 6:30â or âLois comes home at 5:00â to remove anxiety and uncertainty about anticipated events.
  • Learn to recognize certain behaviors. An agitated state or pulling at clothing, for example, could indicate a need to use the bathroom.

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Find A Shared Activity

Another tactic to make these conversations more comfortable is to do something else at the same time youre talking. Depending on their stage of memory loss, your loved one might enjoy working on a puzzle, playing cards or looking through photo albums.

At later stages, your loved one might be beyond the point of having conversations. In these cases, it may make more sense to watch a favorite TV show or listen to some quiet music together during your visits. Bringing a book or having another activity with you to do while sitting with your loved one is often appropriate.

Communicate At Eye Level With Limited Distractions

Communicate with Dementia Person

Looking down at someone can make them feel suspicious or anxious and can change the power dynamic, Hartford says. The aim is to level the playing field.

Were dealing typically with older adults who have changes in hearing, Hartford says. They may really rely on reading lips, talking face-to-face.

Also, limit distractions that people with dementia can have a hard time tuning out. A television, radio or air conditioning unit can be distracting. Get into a quiet space when you want to communicate.

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How Does Dementia Affect Communication

The effects of dementia on the brain can worsen a persons:

  • Communication and cognition
  • Visual perception
  • Problem-solving skills

Signs of dementia begin when healthy neurons or nerve cells in the brain stop working with other brain cells and die, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. While losing neurons is more common with age, people with dementia experience a severe loss of neurons, which can contribute to personality changes, a decrease in communication skills, and losing emotional control.

What Are Nonverbal Dementia Communication Techniques

There are many different types of nonverbal communication, including:

1. Facial expressionsYour face can express emotions without saying a word. And many facial expressions are the same across cultures, like happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust.

2. Body movements and postureThe way someone moves and carries themselves can say a lot about them, their mood, and their state of mind.

3. GesturesWhen we talk, we use gestures without even thinking about it waving, pointing, and using our hands when were angry or excited.

4. Eye contactFor people who can see, vision is the dominant sense. Thats why eye contact is so important.

The way you look at someone can say a lot. Plus, eye contact helps you see the other persons engagement level and reactions.

5. TouchTouch is another way to speak without using words.

For example, these mean very different things: a limp handshake, a gentle shoulder tap, a warm hug, a reassuring pat on the back, a patronizing pat on the head, or a controlling grip on the arm.

6. SpaceEveryone needs some physical space, though how much may vary for each person and situation.

For example, standing too close can make someone uncomfortable. But staying at too far a distance could seem uncaring or uninterested.

7. VoiceThe tone and volume of your voice adds a lot of meaning to words.

For example, imagine saying fine during a heated argument compared to saying it when youre happy and content. The same word sounds completely different.

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Amnestic Versus Nonamnestic Mci

Two broad types of MCI are now recognized: amnestic MCI, when memory impairment is the main presenting feature, and nonamnestic MCI, when memory is relatively preserved but language difficulties are obvious. In both instances, the associated cognitive deficit can be the result of deficit in a single cognitive domain or multiple domains. Hence, four different syndromic phenotypes have been described: Amnestic MCI single domain, Amnestic MCI multiple domains, Nonamnestic MCI single domain, and Nonamnestic MCI multiple domains .

Patients with amnestic MCI are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimers dementia: More than 50% of patients with amnestic MCI develop Alzheimers disease within a 5-year period of the diagnosis of amnestic MCI . Patients with MCI and a positive amyloid PET scan are more likely to rapidly transition to Alzheimers dementia. However, many patients, about 25% of the patients with amnestic MCI, do not have any evidence of brain pathology .

Subjective memory complaints is another term introduced to identify those who complain of memory deficits, have normal cognitive functions as per various neuropsychological tests administered but have biomarkers of Alzheimers dementia .

Expect To Hear The Same Things Again And Again


My experience has been that those with dementia often have a few stories they like to retell or remember. I know that whenever we drive by a particular church, my aunt will tell me about the funeral with the ladies in red hats. When we go by the funeral home, Ill hear about a conversation she had with the director.

Whenever possible, I dont interrupt. Instead, I listen as though Ive never heard the story before. If I absolutely cant bear to hear it again, I might jump in with an Oh, I think you may have mentioned this. Is this when and fill in the blank. But mostly, I simply listen. Letting them tell their favorite stories makes the conversation more enjoyable for both of us.

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Tips For Talking To A Parent With Dementia

Talking to a parent with Alzheimers can be a daily struggle. Here are some tips for talking to a parent with dementia as their memory and judgment deteriorates.

For someone with Alzheimers or another form of dementia, a human connection is vital their well-being. However, the mental changes that often accompany Alzheimers can make communication difficult.

Help your aging loved one feel respected, valued, and supported with these tips for communicating with a senior suffering from Alzheimers or another form of dementia:

Communication is vital for someone with Alzheimers. By using these tips for talking to a parent with dementia, you may be able to communicate easier with your loved one.

Confirm Understanding Of What Has Been Said

Words used by a person with dementia dont always make sense. If you have a good relationship with and knowledge of the person you can probably guess the meaning. But it is important not to assume what has been said. Try to check you are on the right track by repeating a word or phrase used, or suggest other words to confirm understanding of what has been said.

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