It can be hard to watch a loved one deteriorate with dementia. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to communicate with your loved one to help maintain and grow the bond you both share.
In this post, we will show how you can talk to your loved one with dementia and how the condition might be affecting the way they communicate with you. These communication strategy tips that we’ve picked up from memory care assisted living will help you.
How Can Dementia Affect Communication Skills?
Dementia can cause some drastic changes to the brain, including:
- Loss of cognition and communication skills
- Worsening ability to focus and remember things
- Language skills will suffer
- Visual perception can worsen
- Ability to problem solve worsens
You’ll begin to notice the signs of dementia after the healthy neurons/nerve cells in their brain begin to die, and cease to work with other brain cells. This is according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. While it’s true that loss of neurons is normal with aging, a person with dementia experiences these losses even faster. This can lead to changes in their personality, worsening communication skills, and a growing inability to control their emotions.
Ways to Facilitate Communication
While dementia can vary in severity, there are still plenty of methods of communication catering to all types of dementia. There are also support techniques that will enhance the quality of conversations with your loved one. A good rule of thumb is to stay patient, coherent, and empathetic. Below are 8 ways to strengthen the bond with your loved one while communicating better at the same time.
1. Remove Possible Distractions
Try to find a quiet and comfortable place to communicate. This means turning off the TV and music. While music can do great things for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, it’s not usually that helpful to foster conversations. If you happen to be out and about in noisy places (such as a store or café), try to find a quiet corner away from crowds.
While these occurrences won’t be a big deal to the average person, they can be too much to bear for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
2. Speak Clearly and Use Body Language
When it comes to speaking coherently, this means communicating clearly, in a simple way (directly and without slang), and using complete sentences.
Just as important as voice communication is how you communicate with your body. You should also try to use visual cues or gestures whenever it’s appropriate. For instance, when you say, “let’s go for a walk,” you should motion them forward with your arm as an invitation.
3. Stay On One Topic at a Time
A person with dementia may not be able to mentally juggle several different conversation threads simultaneously. Therefore you should try to keep the conversation flow simple and straightforward.
In practice, what this means is asking open-ended, observational questions rather than asking too many questions at once.
4. Use Nonverbal Communication
Your words aren’t the only thing that can convey understanding and meaning. Actions speak louder than words, and this is especially true in memory care assisted living. As a matter of fact, in cases of advanced dementia, you might find out that it’s better to use nonverbal communication.
Do your best to incorporate hand-holding, smiling, eye contact, and quietly sitting while listening.
5. Don’t Overwhelm Them With Questions
It’s vital to provide them with manageable choices along with some visual cues. For example, asking “what do you want to wear today?” could overwhelm them because there will be too many options.
It would be better to present two shirts and ask, “would you like to wear the polka dot shirt or the shirt with green stripes?” This will make the choice much simpler, which allows for easier communication. When interacting with a person who has dementia, simplifying communication will make things easier and smoother for both of you.
6. Communication Strategies for Advanced Dementia
Communication through more creative means such as singing, smells, etc., can work wonders. Creative communication will become even more important in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Some of these creative strategies include singing a favorite song or hymn, perusing through old photo albums together, and experiencing different fragrances together, such as roses, cinnamon, ground cumin, freshly cut grass, etc.
7. Give Them Time
Give your senior time to think about what you said. For example, if you asked them a question, just wait patiently for their response and don’t rush them. Silence can feel awkward in normal conversation, but it’s something that you should start getting used to if your senior has dementia.
If your loved one is having a hard time finding the right word for something, it can be tempting to try and help them find it. However, instead of being helpful, you might actually be derailing their thought process.
8. Be Ready for the Ups and Downs
While it’s true that dementia is a progressive disease that becomes worse and worse over time, seniors with dementia still have good and bad days like everyone else. Cherish the good days and do your best to get them through the bad ones. Always remember that you don’t have to be alone in this. It’s perfectly fine to lean on your friends and family members for emotional support.
And if their care becomes too much for you to handle, then it’s time to look into memory care assisted living. Memory care will be mandatory for their safety and well-being in the later stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Long Road Ahead
Since there’s no cure for dementia, things are not going to get any easier. Over time, they will have a more difficult time understanding and communicating with you. The journey will not be easy, and education is the best tool to make things easier for yourself. This blog is a great resource with tips that can be applied at home or in your loved one’s memory care assisted living.