Communicating with someone who has dementia often becomes increasingly difficult as the disease progresses. Patience, keen attention and these talking (and listening!) tips from the Alzheimer’s Association and Family Caregiver Alliance can help families who are facing a dementia diagnosis continue to connect.
Be respectful. Engage with the person directly rather than with his or her caregiver. Don’t patronize or talk as if the person isn’t there.
Limit distractions. Find a quiet area to talk, free from noise and visual distractions. Look the person in the eye, and position yourself at their level. If need be, use touch—even just your hand on theirs—to help keep them focused.
Speak clearly. Slow down and be distinct. Keep your voice calm and even.
Simplify questions. When possible, rephrase questions to elicit a yes-or-no answer. Only ask one question at a time.
Reminisce. Short-term memory typically falters first, so avoid asking about things that happened recently. Instead, bring up fond memories of the past, which often remain sharp for much longer.
Listen carefully. Give the person plenty of time to respond. Focus on what they are saying and their emotions as they say it. Encourage, but don’t interrupt.
Don’t argue. Let comments you disagree with pass. If the person becomes agitated, acknowledge their feelings and then redirect by changing the subject or setting.
Stay positive. Your loved one takes cues from you, so maintain a pleasant tone of voice and positive attitude. Whenever possible, find ways to laugh together to keep the mood light.
Contemplating the next chapter in your loved one’s story? Click here to learn more about Bickford Senior Living and to find a branch near you.