Talking to someone with dementia can be a daunting prospect, especially as the disease progresses and their personality and memory starts to change. But, communication is key to helping a person with dementia feel connected to their loved ones, and is an essential part of caring and nurturing a loved one who is living with the disease.
Here are some things you should think about when talking to someone with dementia:
- Avoid distractions – Try to find a quiet place to talk, away from loud noises such as TV’s. This will allow your loved one to concentrate on the conversation you are having and not become agitated with the surrounding hubbub.
- One subject at a time – During natural conversation we all have the tendency to jump from one topic to another. However, for a person living with dementia, this approach to conversation can be confusing and difficult to keep up with. Try to stick to one subject at a time.
- Patience – Give your loved one time to process what you are saying and allow them time to respond. Don’t become frustrated as this will only increase their agitation, and may mean that they shut down and are less willing to communicate with you.
- Names – Try to avoid using pronouns such as he or she. Refer to people by their actual names during conversation.
- Hold hands – Touch is an incredibly powerful tool, helping a person with dementia feel safe, secure and loved. Try reaching out and holding your loved ones hand whilst you talk to them.
- Speak clearly – Speak clearly, calmly and naturally, avoiding any ‘baby’ talk.
- Body language – Just because a person has dementia doesn’t mean that they are unable to pick up on body language. Ensure that you are actively listening, engaged, sitting or standing at their eye level, smiling and making eye contact.
- The sound of silence – Don’t be afraid of silence. Whilst conversation is great, there is also nothing wrong with simply spending time with each other without talking, just enjoying each other’s company.