Tips for Communicating With Dementia Sufferers

Can you imagine not being able to understand what your loved ones are saying to you, or even recognize who they are?

Dementia and Alzheimer's takes a terrible toll on the mind, and thus it can make communicating very difficult. But it is important to remember that communicating with dementia sufferers can be frustrating and upsetting for both people involved, so it should be approached with love and care. But it is most important to recognize that even though your loved one might have a hard time understanding or recognizing you, that does not mean that they should be ignored. In fact, quite the opposite. Most dementia sufferers crave warm human contact, a light conversation, and a friendly, understanding smile.

Below are a few simple tips for communicating with dementia sufferers:

  1. Realize the severity of the situation. Unfortunately for people diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer's, it will only get worse. Dementia is a severe disease that gets worse with time, making it harder and harder to communicate and to understand. It's important to recognize this from the start so you don't give up or get overly frustrated when things get tough.
  2. Avoid distractions when you're talking. Creating an environment where there are no distractions is ideal for communicating with dementia sufferers. This allows your loved one to focus all of their mental energy on the conversation without being distracted by things like TVs, cellphones ringing, or excessive background noise.
  3.  Speak clearly and calmly. Use your natural voice when you are talking to your loved one, and be sure to annunciate your words. Use warm, calming tones, but avoid "babytalk" or other condescending voices.
  4. Use people's names. Avoid pronouns like "he" or "she" in conversations. Instead, always refer to whomever you are speaking about by their proper name, such as "Cindy" rather than "she." Also be sure to use your name when you greet your loved one. Rather then saying, "hi, it's me!" say, "hi, it's me Cindy!"
  5. Keep the conversation simple. Talk about one thing at a time, and try to avoid long, rambling conversations that have multiple threads. Keep the conversation as clear and concise as possible.
  6. Nonverbal communication is key. Maintain eye contact, and smile when you are talking to your loved one. This will help them understand what you are saying, and it is also reassuring. Nonverbal communication such as a smile or a warm, understanding face might be the only way to communicate once the disease has progressed into its later stages, so it is good to make sure your loved one is receptive to the cues you are using.
  7. Be an active listener. If your loved one is saying something that you don't understand, stop them and politely ask for clarity instead of continuing without understanding what they are saying.
  8. Don't argue. Your conversations won't get very far if you are trying to correct every inaccuracy or misstatement that your loved one says. Let minor mistakes go, realizing that it is part of the the disease, and that by correcting them always, you might actually be confusing them more.
  9. Be patient. Give your loved one time to process what you say, especially after you ask a question. There is no need to get frustrated if they don't respond right away. Recognize that your conversations will take longer and move at a slower pace.
  10. There will be ups and downs. It is important to realize that your loved one will have good days and bad days, despite the progression of their dementia or Alzheimer's. Be patient with them and be there for them, even if it is just a reassuring hand grab or a smile.

Dementia and Alzheimer's are very serious mental diseases that can make the role of family caregiver very difficult. American In-Home Care recognizes that Alzheimer’s and dementia affects each person differently, meaning there is no one way to provide care. That is why we will work with you and your loved one to determine what services are most important for their safety, mental health and physical well-being. As experts in senior care, we refer care providers that can improve the quality of life for both you and your loved one. Contact us today at 1-844-505-0004 to schedule your free, in-home consultation to discuss your care needs.