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Communication Strategies for Dementia

In an article by aPlaceforMom Senior Living Blog, different strategies are detailed for communicating with those who have dementia, a disorder characterized by memory loss, personality change and affected reasoning skills.

The article explains the importance of understanding how to patiently connect with our love ones who are afflicted with this disorder. It is important for loved ones to remember that there are good days and bad days associated with dementia, and when their loved one is having a bad day to remember the beautiful person inside.

Below are the 10 tips on how to effectively communicate with someone who has moderate to severe dementia.

  1. Recognize what you are up against. Dementia inevitably gets worse with time. People with dementia will gradually have a more difficult time understanding others, as well as communicating in general.
  2. Avoid distractions. Try to find a place and time to talk when there are not a lot of distractions present. This allows your loved one to focus all their mental energy on the conversation.
  3. Speak clearly and naturally in a warm and calm voice. Refrain from ‘babytalk’ or any other kind of condescension.
  4. Refer to people by their names. Avoid pronouns like “he,” “she” and “they” during conversation. Names are also important when greeting a loved one with dementia. For example: “Hi, Grandma.  It’s me, Jeff,” is to be preferred over, “Hi. It’s me.”
  5. Talk about one thing at a time. Someone with dementia may not be able to engage in the mental juggling involved in maintaining a conversation with multiple threads.
  6. Use nonverbal cues. For example, maintain eye contact and smile. This helps put your loved one at ease and will facilitate understanding. And when dementia is very advanced, nonverbal communication may be the only option available.
  7. Listen actively. If you do not understand something your loved one is telling you, politely let them know.
  8. Do not quibble. Your conversations are not likely to go very far if you try to correct every inaccurate statement your loved one makes. It is okay to let delusions and misstatements go.
  9. Have patience. Give your loved one extra time to process what you say. If you ask a question, give a moment to respond. Do not let frustration get the better of you.
  10. Understand there will be good days and bad days. While the general trend of dementia sufferers is a downward decline, people with dementia will have ups and downs just like anyone else.
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