Caring for an older adult can pose many unique challenges, especially if he or she is dealing with memory loss. If you are a family caregiver for a parent or loved one with a form of dementia, you may notice mood shifts, confusion, and changes in their personality, which can make it challenging to communicate with him or her.
Though it can be difficult at times, there are methods to help create a better line of communication between you and your loved one. CaraVita Home Care, with senior care services offered in Roswell, Georgia, and the Metro Atlanta area, understands the impact Alzheimer’s and dementia can have on a family. We want to share techniques to improve care and communication with a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia.
Before you begin your conversation, be sure that you are in a good place to speak. Turn off any background noise that may be distracting, like music or the television. Depending on the stage of their memory loss, identify yourself, and use cues to help keep their attention, like touch or non-excessive hand motions.
If your loved one is sitting, sit down with them, and maintain their level of eye contact to help them stay engaged.
Speak Clearly and Be Straightforward
When addressing someone with dementia, it is recommended that you use simple words and sentences. Be sure to speak slowly with a reassuring tone, so you don’t sound angry or upset.
Give the person time to respond, and if he or she does not understand the first time, be patient. If, after a few attempts, he or she still doesn’t understand, try rephrasing your question or statement. Ask one question at a time, be concise, and use visual cues when possible. The Alzheimer's Association recommends asking “yes or no questions. For example, ‘Would you like some coffee?’ rather than ‘What would you like to drink?’”
Reassure and Stay Positive
No one likes feeling misunderstood or the feeling of confusion, and dementia can heighten these emotions. When you’re talking to your loved one, be sure to reassure them and maintain a level of positivity throughout your interaction. Keep the conversation light with added humor or reassure them through moments of affection.
Listen and Understand Them
Communication is a two-way street, so be sure to listen to your loved one and understand them. When having a discussion, don’t only listen to their words, but observe their body language and nonverbal communication.
If you can sense that your parent or loved one is struggling to find the right words, try to help him or her in a calm manner.
Break Down Activities or Conversations
Being as simple as possible when communicating with someone who has memory loss or a form of dementia is a key factor. If you are discussing activities, try to break them down step by step to make it easier for him or her to understand. If you have a lengthy discussion for them, try to break it up into segments and ensure they understood what you have said before continuing with the conversation.
Be Patient and Open
One of the most important parts of communicating with a loved one who has dementia is to be patient. When having a conversation, don’t feel discouraged or allow yourself to get upset with him or her.
When you’re speaking to your loved one, be sure that your body language is open and relaxed; tense movement or body language can make him or her feel fearful or worrisome about what is happening.
Communication is a vital part of any relationship. While dementia may pose an obstacle for clear communication, finding techniques that work with your parent or loved one can help avoid difficult situations and frustration for everyone involved.
If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and you are seeking additional help, CaraVita Home Care offers a DementiaLife program. We have created a new approach when it comes to dementia and memory care. We develop an individualized care plan with families and clients that helps to manage behaviors and create joyful moments.