Communicating with People who are Afflicted with Dementia


April 03, 2017 in: Communicating with people who are afflicted with dementia,

The onset of dementia often causes a significant disconnect between the individual and their loved ones. It is important to communicate with confidence. Continued research gives informed strategies to the family members in approaching the challenge.

While dementia changes people into different versions of their former selves there are strategies to lessen the stress that goes along with this transition. Some family members describe their loved one with dementia as “empty” or “lost,” particularly in later stages. Bringing back and seeing the person we once knew gives us meaning and connection, even just for a moment. This takes persistence, hard work, and determination but there is a technique. Putting these into action makes us feel more in control, fulfilled and most importantly can give us glimpses of the dementia-afflicted loved one.

Below are some techniques in dealing with your dementia-afflicted loved one.

  • Acceptance: There is a balance between defeat and recognizing what the future holds. At this point in time dementia is guaranteed to get worse over time. People with dementia gradually have a difficult time understanding and communicating. The more their loved ones can accept this, the better chance of positive communication.
  • Tonality: Speak as if you are talking to them before dementia arrived. Refrain from condensation or communicating as you would to a toddler.
  • Focus: Find a place with few distractions. This sets communication up for success as your loved one needs all of their mental energy focused on the conversation.  
  • Time: Set a specific amount of time to communicate with your strategy at the forefront of your mind. This can allow you to feel more in control.
  • Using names: Using names and avoiding pronouns like “he” or “she” during conversation are important.
  • Physical expression: Nonverbal communication goes a long way and at times is the only option. Maintain eye contact and smile. Dementia-afflicted individuals may have the ability to pick up on this.
  • Listen: Listen to the individual even if you do not understand them. Respect is important in encouraging open communication even if you are not processing what they are trying to say.
  • Don’t correct: Remember you are not teaching a one-year-old her first words. It’s ok to let delusions and misstatements go. It is a part of accepting.
  • Days differ: People with dementia will have ups and downs like all of us do. While dementia comes with a downward decline try not to let one bad day discourage you.

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