It is painful to witness our loved ones experiencing deterioration in their health including suffering from a variety of memory-related conditions like dementia. Fortunately, there are many tips shared by communication strategists that can help you maintain and improve your bond with a loved one with dementia. Learn how to talk to someone with dementia so as to communicate effectively for better conversations.
How Can Dementia Affect Communication?
Dementia is known to worsen various skills such as the following:
- Memory and focus
- Communication and cognition
- Visual perception
- Language skills
- Problem-solving skills
Signs of dementia start developing when healthy nerve cells in the brain stop functioning with other brain cells and die. Losing nerve cells is common with age but people with dementia suffer a severe loss of brain cells which can cause personality changes, loss of emotional control, and reduced communication skills.
Communication Tools for Aging Adults with Dementia
Signs of dementia can vary in terms of severity and there are various communication tools and support techniques that caregivers can use to improve conversations with their loved ones. As a rule of thumb, it is necessary for you to remain clear, patient, and understanding whenever communicating with an elderly with dementia. Here are several communication strategies you can use to improve your bond with your loved ones with dementia by having a proper conversation.
Find a quiet and comfortable area to talk to an aging adult with dementia. Turn off the TV and music if you are at home and if you are outside, find a seating area that is quiet or away from the hustle and bustle. Note that even basic distractions can make conversing with a person with dementia much harder and the conversation may even be overwhelming.
Use Gestures and Speak Naturally
It is important to speak naturally, clearly, and in complete sentences, while using a friendly and calm voice whenever speaking with a person with dementia. Apart from using your voice, you can try to communicate using gestures like making subtle movements with your body. This can help you better demonstrate what you mean to the person you are speaking with.
By identifying yourself and others, you can make the conversation much easier to be understood. People with dementia may not remember recent events but their memory of past events are is usually still very much alive. Instead of trying to reorient to today, it is better to just speak in general because you do not know just how much memory that the person with dementia has about you or your past.
Using Nonverbal Cues
Words are not the only way to convey meaning and understanding. Actions can go a long way when talking to someone with dementia. With severe dementia, you can stand to succeed much more easily when you make use of nonverbal communication. Below are some nonverbal cues that you can use in your conversations with a loved one with dementia:
- Maintain eye contact
- Sit quietly before initiating a conversation
- Hold their hand