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Tips for Communicating with a Loved One with Dementia

Dementia Day Care

Premier Dementia Day Care in South Carolina

One of our goals at New Generations is to help families learn how to better communicate with their loved ones. Many of our senior citizen attendants have progressive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia that pose difficult challenges for their caretakers. At our dementia day care, encouraging healthy communication while reducing cognitive decline are two of our daily ambitions. To help you maintain a great relationship with your loved one, we’ve compiled 10 of our favorite tips for communicating with someone who has dementia.

1. Focus on the Present

Individuals with dementia often have difficulty recalling past or future events. Concentrate on the present moment, and keep conversations simple and easy-to-follow. You could talk about the weather, your pets or the meal you’re enjoying together.

2. Minimize Distractions

Over-stimulation can quickly lead to frustration and agitation; make sure that you and your loved one engage in conversation with minimal distractions. This means turning off the TV or radio and ensuring other family members are respectfully quiet.

3. Establish Context

Dementia can make it impossible for individuals to recognize their closest relatives or friends. When you speak to your loved one, use your name. Instead of saying, “It’s me,” follow up with your name and relation to them. “It’s Susan, your daughter,” is more helpful. Follow this identifying pattern with other relatives and animals as well, e.g. “This is your grandson,” or “That is your cat.”

4. Handle Disagreements Positively

A friendly smile, upbeat attitude and plenty of positive affirmations can help your loved one feel more secure. Sometimes, individuals in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s struggle between periods of confusion and coherency. Avoid arguing when they are wrong, and try to redirect rather than combat anything they say that may be inaccurate.

5. Avoid Short-Term Memory Questions

People with dementia sometimes recall the distant past better than their day-to-day activities. When you pick your loved one up from dementia day care, for example, asking them what they did today may not get a response. Instead, talk about information from their past. Many individuals with dementia still have fond memories of their adult lives and childhoods.

6. Be Accepting of Outbursts

Dementia can cause people to become easily triggered by things that you’d never expect. While it can be alarming or even hurtful if they lash out at you, understand that this is the disease talking, not them. When they get upset or angry, keep a calm tone, offer reassurance and maintain a gentle, loving demeanor.

Some days will be more difficult than others. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you feel your patience running thin. Practice self-care, and surround yourself with a support system that makes caring for your loved one easier.

7. Use Simple Questions

Avoid asking things that require detailed responses. Yes-or-no questions are much easier for an individual with dementia to understand. For example, instead of asking, “Where would you like to go today?”, ask your loved one something like, “Would you like to go to the park?”

8. Pay Attention to Body Language

When they struggle to speak, people with dementia will communicate with non-verbal cues. It’s okay to offer suggestions when they’re unable to find the words they’re looking for, but always check for understanding instead of assuming what they want or feel.

9. Use Visual Cues

Show your loved one objects that help them visualize concepts more. When they’re getting dressed, show them different shirts so they can choose one they like. When it’s time to eat, point to the dining table or kitchen area.

10. Make Eye Contact

Make sure that you always sit closely and hold eye contact when you’re speaking to someone with dementia. Addressing them directly and establishing connections will make you feel closer to them, and it will help them better understand the situation.

Learn More About New Generations

If your loved one requires more care, we offer a Memory Care Program as well as Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care at New Generations. Our person-centered care plans are tailored to the abilities and preferences of each person. Please contact us today for more information or to schedule a free trial day. We’d love to meet you and your loved one!