Dementia affects nearly every aspect of a person’s life. One of the areas that is affected is communication. As dementia progresses, the person gradually loses their ability to communicate clearly and effectively. They lose the ability to tell people how they are feeling or to communicate their needs or desires. Not only do dementia patients have trouble communicating their needs, they also begin having trouble understanding what others are saying. This can make it hard for caregivers to give dementia patients instructions or reassure them when they are anxious. Communication changes as the person progresses through the disease, which means that how caregivers communicate with them must also change.
Early Stage Communication Tips
During the early stages of dementia, the older adult is still capable of engaging in conversations. However, you may notice that they repeat stories. They may also struggle to find the right words to express themselves or be easily overwhelmed. The following tips may help:
- Continue to include the senior in conversations and activities. Talk to them, not about them. If you want to know how the person is doing, ask them instead of asking others in the family.
- Allow extra time for the older adult to respond. Resist the urge to help them complete a sentence or find a word unless they ask you to.
- Ask which forms of communication they find easiest. They might prefer email over a phone call because it gives them time to respond at a time of the day when their cognitive abilities are sharper.
Middle Stage Communication Tips
During the middle stage, communication will be more difficult than it was in the past. Try some of these techniques to make it easier:
- Minimize background distractions. Turn off the television or radio during conversations. Remember, too, that one on one conversations may be easier than large groups.
- Don’t correct or criticize. Instead, do the best you can to decipher the meaning or intent of what they are saying. If you need to clarify, try repeating what the person said.
- Keep questions simple and ask only one at a time. Yes or no questions are easier to answer than more complex questions. So, instead of asking the senior what they want for lunch, ask questions like, “Do you want soup for lunch?”
- Use visual clues to help the person understand what you want them to do. For example, if you want them to brush their teeth, point to their toothbrush.
Late Stage Communication Tips
Communication in this stage may rely more on visual clues than on verbal communication. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop talking to the person. These tips can allow you to continue communicating in the late stage:
- Identify yourself to the person and approach them head on instead of from the side or behind.
- Respond to the emotions behind what a person is saying instead of trying to figure out the meaning.
- Ask the person to point to what they want or use gestures to communicate.
It can be hard for caregivers to know what to say to a person with dementia. Remember, though, that your presence and love are just as important to your aging family member as what you say. Simply reassuring the person that they are safe and that you are there if they need you can be just as meaningful to them as an in-depth conversation.
IF YOU OR AN AGING LOVED-ONE ARE CONSIDERING IN-HOME CAREGIVERS IN LITCHFIELD PARK, AZ, CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT GOLDEN HEART SENIOR CARE. CALL TODAY (623) 748-3301.