Dealing with a loved one who has dementia has many challenges. Even if they live in a suitable assisted living facility and you are not responsible for the activities of daily living, communicating effectively can be difficult. While professional caretakers have received communication training skills, family members can be at a disadvantage. Visits can leave everyone more stressed. Here are six tips to improve communication.
Set A Positive Tone
Your body language and tone of voice speak louder than the words you are saying. Begin each visit by keeping these things in mind. Use a gentle voice, and rub their back or hold their hand to convey a positive mood.
Multi-tasking can be difficult for those with their full mental capacities. With someone who has dementia, it can be nearly impossible. Turn the radio or TV off. If they are in a common area with other residents and their visitors, take a stroll to their room or, if it's nice, head outside for some fresh air and sunshine. A quieter, more private setting will be more relaxing for everyone, and you may be graced with a rare moment of clarity from them.
Get Their Attention
Before speaking, address them by name so they are focused on you. Let them see your face when talking to them. This will help them remember who you are as well as hear more easily. Speak slowly and if they don't respond immediately, give them a second to formulate their thoughts. If they still don't respond, say the same thing again.
Ask Simple Yes Or No Questions
Following long strings of thought are difficult for dementia patients. Making decisions, even the simplest ones, such as "what would you like to eat" can be stressful. Rather than offering a choice, ask if they are hungry for a hamburger. If they say no, choose something else to offer.
Break Activities Into Steps
Telling someone with dementia to "go get ready for church" isn't going to work. A request such as this will only result in confusion for them and frustration for both of you. Instead, work through each task one by one. Start with "brush your hair," and once that is done, move on to the next step.
Allow Plenty Of Time
Just as doing things with small children requires plenty of patience and extra time, so does interacting with a dementia patient. Rushing them will only stress everyone out, and if you are short-tempered, they will pick up on that. If you have to be somewhere, such as a doctor's appointment, arrive in plenty of time to help them do what they need to do without causing further anxiety.