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How To Talk To Someone With Dementia

The Importance Of Body Language And Physical Contact

How to Talk to Someone With Dementia

To have a meaningful conversation with a loved one diagnosed with dementia, you not only need verbal communication skills, but also non-verbal communication skills. This form of communication will help you and your loved one better understand each other.

Body movements such as gestures, and facial expressions all convey meaning. Body language and physical contact become significant when speech is difficult for a person with dementia.

Physical touchas a pat or holding their hands can help them feel reassured. Remember to keep an eye on their body language if they are uncomfortable and tense, you should back off.

Its important to encourage them to communicate what they want, and this might require you to put in some effort. Physical contact, such as a gentle touch, can go a long way, since a person with memory loss might not recognise you immediately, but they might recognise you through the way you interact.

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.
  • Common Symptoms Of Dementia

    While the early signs of dementia can be subtle, the condition becomes more evident as time goes on. Memory loss is one of the most common signs of dementia that occurs when core mental functions are impaired. People with dementia may also experience problems with language and communication, a reduced ability to pay attention or focus, and poor visual perception. While everyone can have trouble finding the right words to say sometimes, people with dementia may forget words frequently or substitute inappropriate words which can make their sentences more challenging to understand.

    As most types of dementia are progressive, symptoms may start out slow and gradually worsen. In addition to declining cognitive function, those with dementia may also develop other conditions or behaviors, such as depression, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, and excess use of alcohol. It also is not uncommon for people with dementia to experience mood, behavior, or personality changes as their condition progresses. When mood swings occur, dementia patients may become confused, withdrawn, or suspicious of those around them. Dementia can also cause a person to lose interest in the activities that they used to enjoy.

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    Having A Conversation With Someone With Dementia

    Communication is critical for everyone. There are two main forms of communication verbal and non-verbal . This feature focuses on the verbal form of communication and will provide you with some practical tips on how to help a person with dementia.

    For information on non-verbal communication, see the feature in this section on Behaviour as a form of communication.

    What we say should match how we say it the tone we use and the faces that we pull while we are saying it.

    Develop Helpful Daily Routines

    Good to know

    Having general daily routines and activities can provide a sense of consistency for an Alzheimers or dementia patient and help ease the demands of caregiving. Of course, as your loved ones ability to handle tasks deteriorates, youll need to update and revise these routines.

    Keep a sense of structure and familiarity. Try to keep consistent daily times for activities such as waking up, mealtimes, dressing, receiving visitors, and bedtime. Keeping these things at the same time and place can help orientate the person with dementia. Use cues to establish the different times of dayopening the curtains in the morning, for example, or playing soothing music at night to indicate bedtime.

    Involve your loved one in daily activities as much as theyre able. For example, they may not be able to tie their shoes, but may be able to put clothes in the hamper. Clipping plants in the yard may not be safe, but they may be able to weed, plant, or water.

    Vary activities to stimulate different sensessight, smell, hearing, and touchand movement. For example, you can try singing songs, telling stories, dancing, walking, or tactile activities such as painting, gardening, or playing with pets.

    Spend time outdoors. Going for a drive, visiting a park, or taking a short walk can be very therapeutic. Even just sitting outside can be relaxing.

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    Better Indications Or Concrete Elections Than General Propositions

    It is a small mistake that some people make that can affect the performance and the performance of the person in the task given to him or the question put to him. Making general propositions first means that you have to imagine and generate responses, as well as you have to deal with the idea of whether or not to do it. It also involves a lot more effort greater risk of confusion.

    If we want him to act, it is important to indicate what he is supposed to do, in a concrete way. It is not the same as telling someone to raise their hand and ask if they can lift it. This is the first case where you can do it, while in the second it can be interpreted as a simple question to be answered. Also, maybe decision making is one of the damaged skills. It can be helpful to evaluate it, but you should keep in mind what you are seeing at any given time. A hand. Abilities tell you to do something.

    Common Frustrations & Difficulties

    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 the patient and/or loved one. For caregiverswhether you’re a professional or a family member caring for a loved oneits important to adopt a positive attitude to effectively communicate.

    Engaging with patients and/or loved ones in an encouraging and patient manner will help minimize feelings of frustration. If you’re struggling to connect with a patient and/or loved one with memory loss, its important to know a few common frustrations and traps and how you can avoid them.

    First, remind yourself that people with dementia and/or Alzheimers only have the present moment, so we can let them know that we enjoy their company. When caring for someone who has the disease, the most important thing to take care of is that persons feelings. A person with memory loss cant remember the minute before, they dont know whats going to happen in the next minute. They cant do that kind of thinking, so how they feel right now is the most important thing to pay attention to.

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    Who Is Judy Cornish

    Judy Cornish is a former eldercare lawyer and the former owner of Palouse Dementia Care, a dementia care agency that provides in-home dementia care to seniors in northern Idaho. She is the author of Dementia With Dignity and The Dementia Handbook as well as the creator of the DAWN Method of dementia care. Judy believes that with a little training, families can provide excellent dementia care at home with less stress and more companionship.

    Of course, we expect that, due to memory loss, people who have dementia will have trouble recalling what they did earlier in the day, let alone whats been happening during the past week. And, we know that how much they can remember will diminish as time goes on. At first, you may find that it helps to ask leading questions by including a fact or two . In the earlier stages of dementia, memories sometimes become available when we prompt with a few facts.

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    Establish The Source Of Their Anxiety


    A person with dementia who wants to go home may be feeling unhappy about something currently happening in their life. And you might be able to uncover why.

    Are they having a particularly bad day? Does your loved one continually bring up the need to go home at certain times of day, or on certain days of the week? If you can find an answer to these questions, you may be able to anticipate this request and come prepared to dilute the situation.

    If you notice that your loved one often says they want to go home close to meal times, for example, it may be a way to communicate that they are hungry and want food. By noticing these patterns, you may be able to provide them with what they need to feel safe, secure, and comfortable.

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    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.

    Do Not Try And Alter Undesirable Behavior

    Lack of understanding may push one to try and change or stop any undesirable behavior from patients who have dementia. Keep in mind that it is almost impossible to teach new skills or even reason with the patient. Try instead to decrease frequency or intensity of the behavior. For instance, respond to emotion and not the changes in behavior. If a patient insists on always asking about a particular family member reassure them that he or she is safe and healthy as a way of keeping them calm and happy.

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    Do Not Get Angry Or Upset

    When looking after persons with dementia, practicing self-control is of utter importance. Learn how to breathe in and just relax without taking things personally or getting angry and upset. Remember that dementia patients do not act the way they do out of their own accord. It is the illness that makes them behave the way they do.

    Tips For Preparing To Communicate With A Person With Dementia

    5 Tips for Communicating With Someone Who Has Dementia ...

    The first thing you need to do is understand how you would feel if you struggled to communicate, and how you would want to overcome these communication challenges.

    Here are some tips for creating the right setting to have a conservation with your loved one with dementia or showing symptoms of dementia:

    • Remember to Find a quiet and calm place where you can both have a relaxed conversation. Different forms of dementia can make it difficult for your loved one to handle noise or new places. It’s best that they are free of distractions, especially while trying out new techniques for communicating . Make sure they are comfortable and familiar with a place, i.e. their favourite room or place to sit.

    • When someone develops dementia, they may feel stressed and even more confused if you rush them. Allow plenty of time to talk to your loved one before sitting down for a chat. It’s important that both of you are in good moods! Remember these things can help make our interactions smoother too.

    • One simple technique for memory problems is to think about previous conversations with your loved one and what helped you communicate effectively. If a certain subject upsets them, try to avoid it, but if it occurs, and you have the same conversation over and over again, work through the problem with your loved one, always being calm. Ask them why this bothers them and how they feel. This will help you detect what they are truly feeling and help you resolve the issue together.

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    Do Not Keep Correcting The Patient

    People with dementia do not like it when someone keeps correcting them every time they say something that may not be right. It makes them feel bad about themselves and can make them drift out of the conversation. Discussions should be humorous and light and one should always speak slowly and clearly using simple and short sentences to capture and keep the interest of the dementia patients.

    Use A Warm Tone Of Voice

    Its not what you said, its how you said it!

    How often do we hear this feedback in the context of disagreements?

    Tone-of-voice becomes an even more crucial cue for people living with dementia.

    While your parent may no longer understand words like they used to, maintaining a warm, welcoming vocal tone can help them feel safe.

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    How To Talk To Someone With Dementia

    There are many different dementias, which can affect different abilities. In many cases, it ends up showing a deterioration of the ability to attend to, remember, retain or even understand and processing what they are told can complicate their processing and even their assessment. That is why we offer below a series of indications which may be useful in the treatment of a patient exhibiting these characteristics.

    How Dementia Affects Communication

    How to Talk to Someone with Dementia

    Alzheimers and other forms of dementia impact the areas of the brain that are associated with how we learn new information, at least until a patient reaches an advanced stage of the disease. Thats why those dealing with the disease might be able to remember stories from when they were young but not that a family member visited them the day before.

    When it comes to communication, youll notice different impacts depending on the stage of the disease. The Alzheimers Association says these are the communication effects you can expect to see as the disease progresses:

    • Difficulty finding the right words
    • Using words repeatedly
    • Describing familiar objects because the name cant be recalled
    • Easily losing train of thought
    • Difficulty organizing words logically
    • Reverting to speaking a native language
    • Speaking less often
    • Using gestures instead of speaking

    The changes range from things that are mildly inconvenient to things that make it extremely difficult to communicate at all. A caregiver or loved one will have to practice extreme patience and understanding to make it work. There are several strategies you can use to help bridge the gap. Other tactics should be avoided due to the likelihood of just escalating the problem.

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    Helping A Person Who Is Aware Of Memory Loss

    Alzheimers disease is being diagnosed at earlier stages. This means that many people are aware of how the disease is affecting their memory. Here are tips on how to help someone who knows that he or she has memory problems:

    • Take time to listen. The person may want to talk about the changes he or she is noticing.
    • Be as sensitive as you can. Dont just correct the person every time he or she forgets something or says something odd. Try to understand that its a struggle for the person to communicate.
    • Be patient when someone with Alzheimers disease has trouble finding the right words or putting feelings into words.
    • Help the person find words to express thoughts and feelings. But be careful not to put words in the persons mouth or fill in the blanks too quickly. For example, Mrs. D cried after forgetting her garden club meeting. She finally said, I wish they stopped. Her daughter said, You wish your friends had stopped by for you. Mrs. D nodded and repeated some of the words. Then Mrs. D said, I want to go. Her daughter said, You want to go to the garden club meeting. Again, Mrs. D nodded and repeated the words.
    • Be aware of nonverbal communication. As people lose the ability to talk clearly, they may rely on other ways to communicate their thoughts and feelings. For example, their facial expressions may show sadness, anger, or frustration. Grasping at their undergarments may tell you they need to use the bathroom.


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