If someone you love has dementia, don’t give up on trying to communicate! Dementia is a progressive disease that causes loss of brain function. Over time, dementia makes it more and more difficult for the patient to use spoken language and to understand what is being said in conversation.
Try these tips to improve communication with your loved one:
1) Control the Physical Environment
• Limit distractions
Dementia can make it hard for your loved one to focus or maintain a train of thought during conversation. Choose a quiet place so it is easy to hear each other. Turn off the television, or move to a place where few other people are around, to help your loved one focus.
• Get on his level
If your loved one is sitting or lying down, position yourself so you are at eye level or slightly below eye level. Standing over him may make him feel insecure or unsafe, and may make communication more difficult.
• Eye contact
Make sure you have your loved one’s full attention by establishing eye contact.
• Physical helpers
Your loved one may forget to put on glasses or hearing aids. Make sure those physical helpers are in place and in working order to help with communication.
2) Be Mentally Prepared for the Conversation
• Be patient
Your loved one is probably more frustrated than you are when he can’t find the right word or make himself understood. Be patient and let him know that you want to understand. Don’t interrupt if your loved one is still trying to find the words or finish a thought.
• Be reassuring
Dementia can cause fear, anxiety and low self-esteem. Reassure your loved one that it is okay when communication is difficult.
• Listen for meaning
Even if your loved one is using the wrong word, you may be able to figure out what he is trying to say. Don’t try to force him to use the right word or correct him if he uses the wrong word. Repeat back what you think he said to see if you understood correctly.