Dont Talk Down To Them
Caregivers and/or family members should never talk down to the individual with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, and this especially includes baby talk, which doesn’t work neurologically . The fact that the patient and/or loved one is having problems with language does not mean that talking to them like a four-year-old is going to help. The communication style should still be to a respected, older adult.
Step Into Their World
A person with dementia might say something that is not true perhaps that they are leaving on a trip or that someone is on their way to pick them up.
Hartford advises trying to validate the feeling behind the statement.
You could say, I understand you are expecting a ride. Why dont you come with me and wait until your ride gets here? Hartford says. Step into their world and go along with them. The way their brain is changing, trying to explain why something is a certain way or not is not very fruitful.
If your grandmother thinks you are her long dead cousin, for example, sometimes its better to go along with it. People with dementia can forget their relationships with their spouses and other family members.
It can be emotionally challenging and really hard, Hartford says. But often it is not hard for the person with dementia.
Dont Shy Away From Tears Or Laughter
People with dementia often lead very emotional lives. Anxiety and grief may be quite near to the surface. Dont shy away from tears. Stay with the person and offer them natural support.
You may not be able to fix the cause of the anxiety or grief, but seeing this through with them and not being afraid will help them enormously. Never underestimate this. Likewise, having a belly laugh together over something silly is a great way of getting to know each other.
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Do Not Talk Down To A Loved One
Your family member is not a child. While they may be struggling with an Alzheimers or dementia diagnosis, do not talk down to them. This may cause your loved one to become irritated, sad or unengaged. And, dont use baby talk when addressing your loved one with dementia: you are engaging with a respected older adult.
Moving To A Care Home
If the persons needs become too great for you to manage at home, you may need to consider other long-term options. If youre becoming exhausted or the person with dementia is becoming harder to care for, a care home might be the best option for you both.
A move to a care home can be a difficult decision, but there are limits to the care you can provide.
If the person you care for is moving into a care home, familiar furniture, belongings or music can help them feel more settled.
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Be Ready To Retreat And Regroup
Despite your best efforts and intentions, when you sit down with your parents to talk about what youve been noticing, they might not not want to talk about it the first time you try to bring it up. They may respond with denial or even hostility. In those cases, stay calm and remember that you get more than one shot at this conversation. They may get angry, upset, defensive, or simply refuse to talk about it, Drew said. Unless its a crisis situation, dont force the conversation. Take a step back, regroup on the approach and revisit the subject in a week or two.
Tips For Home Safety For People With Dementia
As a caregiver or family member to a person with Alzheimers or related dementias, you can take steps to make the home a safer place. Removing hazards and adding safety features around the home can help give the person more freedom to move around independently and safely. Try these tips:
- If you have stairs, make sure there is at least one handrail. Put carpet or safety grip strips on stairs, or mark the edges of steps with brightly colored tape so they are more visible.
- Insert safety plugs into unused electrical outlets and consider safety latches on cabinet doors.
- Clear away unused items and remove small rugs, electrical cords, and other items the person may trip over.
- Make sure all rooms and outdoor areas the person visits have good lighting.
- Remove curtains and rugs with busy patterns that may confuse the person.
- Remove or lock up cleaning and household products, such as paint thinner and matches.
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Take Care Of Legal Matters
Help for early dementia will also look like getting legal matters under control.
Unfortunately, there will most likely come a day when your loved one cant act on their own behalf or make decisions. Taking care of legal matters while your loved one is still in good mental health will ensure they:
- Getting power of attorney for your loved one
- Collecting important documents, like social security cards, birth certificates, etc.
- Having your parents make a will
It can be helpful to talk to an elder law attorney to ensure that you dont leave any stone unturned in regards to your parents legal matters.
Check Hearing And Eyesight
It is important to check that hearing and eyesight are not impaired. Glasses or a hearing aid may help some people. Check that hearing aids are functioning correctly and glasses are cleaned regularly.
Remember, communication is made up of three parts:
- 55% is body language which is the message we give out by our facial expression, posture and gestures
- 38% is the tone and pitch of our voice
- 7% is the words we use.
These statistics highlight the importance of how families and carers present themselves to a person with dementia. Negative body language such as sighs and raised eyebrows can be easily picked up.
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Top Communication Tools For Seniors With Dementia
Although dementia signs and severity vary, there are many communication tools for dementia and support techniques to improve conversations with your loved one. In general, its best to remain patient, clear, and understanding. Here are 10 Alzheimers communication strategies to help boost your bond with your loved one and improve communication.
Ways To Talk To Someone With Dementia
Whats worse than finding out your loved one has Alzheimers? Getting an Alzheimers diagnosis yourself. And the stigma and social isolation that comes with the disease is no help when the loneliness starts to set in, according to dementia patients.
There is a big stigma. I think theres a fear of, How do I talk to that person?, said Pamela Roberts, 61, who has dementia. But Im still me, I can still hold a conversation, I can still recognize people and even when I cant, I still want to be talked to the same.
Many support groups are aimed at caregivers, who do undergo a huge amount of stress. But Alzheimers patients themselves feel the effects of social isolation, which still persists despite efforts by support organizations, according to a survey of 2,300 people in the U.K.
The survey offered some sad statistics: Over half of those surveyed were not confident speaking with dementia patients or inviting them to a meal in their home. If confronted with a confused person with dementia in a public space, two-thirds said they wouldnt know how to help them.
But those people have the exact same concerns as dementia patients themselves when they were asked about how they would respond to a diagnosis. Almost half worried that they would be treated like a child and over a quarter said they worried their friends and family would no longer want to see them.
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Dont Expect Them To Conform To Present
As strange as that may sound, learn how to enter into the patients/loved one’s world and not expect them to conform to our present day. As Diane Waugh, BSN, RN, CDP, says in the video above: When I had to deal with memory loss with my own mother, I found the hardest thing for me to do was to not try to drag her into my reality, but to go live where she was living, in her understanding.
Caregivers and/or family members should remember: give up expectations of the patient and/or loved one . Giving up expectations can make room for what the patient and/or loved one’s strengths are .
Where To Get Help
- Your local community health centre
- National Dementia Helpline Dementia Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
- Aged Care Assessment Services Tel. 1300 135 090
- My Aged Care 1800 200 422
- Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinics Tel. 1300 135 090
- Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
- Commonwealth Carelink and Respite Centres Australian Government Tel. 1800 052 222
- Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service Tel. 1800 699 799 for 24-hour telephone advice for carers and care workers
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Be In The Room When They Talk To A Doctor
When youre trying to convince your parent to see a doctor about dementia, a specialist can be a tough sell for a skeptical parent. Karlawish noted that even his organizations name alone The Penn Memory Center can set off alarm bells. Your mom or dad is more likely to find talking to their regular doctor about possible symptoms less daunting. But, per Karlawish, they shouldnt talk to the doctor by themselves. You need to be present to ask questions and hear the doctor. The next most ineffective visit short of no visit is they go in on their own, Karlawish said.
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.
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Tips For Listening To A Person With Dementia
- Listen carefully to what the person is saying. Offer encouragement both verbally and non-verbally, for example by making eye contact and nodding. This active listening can help improve communication.
- The persons body language can show a lot about their emotions. The expression on their face and the way they hold themselves can give you clear signals about how they are feeling when they communicate.
- If you havent fully understood what the person has said, ask them to repeat it. If you are still unclear, rephrase their answer to check your understanding of what they meant.
- If the person with dementia has difficulty finding the right word or finishing a sentence, ask them to explain it in a different way. Listen and look out for clues. If they cannot find the word for a particular object, ask them to describe it instead.
Speak Slowly And In Short Sentences
Give your family member with dementia time to process your words and thoughts. This can be accomplished by speaking slowly. If you find yourself struggling to talk with someone that has dementia or Alzheimers, make an effort to breathe or count a few seconds between each sentence. To decrease agitation for your loved one with dementia provide enough time for them to respond.
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Acknowledge The Conversation May Not Go As Planned
You know you have good intentions, but your loved one may not be open or willing to discuss the changes you have noticed. They may be angry or defensive. Dont force the conversation. Take a break and plan to revisit the conversation later. If your loved one still refuses help, contact a medical professional.
Make The Conversation Low
Speaking of questions, I always try to word everything in a way that makes it ok if the person Im asking doesnt have an answer. Instead of Why did you, I use Why do you think to start questions. Using Do you remember also works well although I try not to use it too often. I dont want my loved one to feel bad if she is constantly answering no.
Another way to keep the conversation going is to bring up a favorite memory you have of the past. You can bring up a couple key details and then pause to see if your loved one will fill in a few more.
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Should You Tell The Person They Have Alzheimer’s
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.
Think About How The Person May Be Feeling
Try to put yourself in their shoes or seat. What is their emotional state likely to be? Are they relaxed and happy or anxious and distressed? Are they calm or frightened? Are they likely to respond to humour or are they angry and frustrated? You may be aware of whats been happening to them prior to your conversation. If not, try to find out so you can think about your approach.
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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.
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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How To Communicate With Someone Who Has Dementia
As dementia progresses, it affects peoples ability to express themselves so you may need to learn new ways to understand and communicate with the person you care for. Here are some tips:
If youre struggling with unusual or challenging behaviour, speak to the persons GP to get a referral to your community mental health team. The Alzheimer Societys factsheet Aggressive behaviour has more useful information including how to react, working out triggers, and dealing with your own feelings.
It’s worth bearing in mind that distress and confusion may be caused by other health needs than dementia. Always discuss any concerns with the person’s GP so they can check for physical causes of symptoms.
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.
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