Communication Tips for Adults with Dementia
Communication Tips for Adults with Dementia
Communication difficulties in Dementia, Can you imagine being in a situation where you are not able to understand what others say and you cannot communicate what you want to say either?
How frustrating can it be to not find the right word when you want to express yourself or to suddenly forget what was being spoken?
Imagine living like this for the rest of your life. This is what persons with Dementia go through in their everyday life.
Communication difficulties in Dementia
In the initial stages of the condition, the person may show difficulties such as having trouble finding the right words and may substitute a word with its related word (e.g. spoon for a fork). He may also speak very fluently in sentences with jumbled up words and meanings.
In the later stages, this becomes worse and he may end up repeating the same phrase or words multiple times. The person may also start to speak a lot of irrelevant things that may not make any sense at all. With further progression, it may lead to a stage where he no longer understands what others speak and is unable to respond verbally.
Considering these difficulties, setting up effective communication is very crucial in supporting persons living with dementia. To be able to communicate well empowers people with Dementia, make them feel related to others, and reduce their frustration and worries. Listed here are a few tips to improve the communication while interacting with adults with dementia:
Factors to be considered BEFORE you speak to a person with Dementia:
- Avoid any kind of distractions in the communicating environment (switch off T.V) and background noises (of cooking/people talking loudly). Make sure the place has good lighting as any form of distractions would interfere with their processing abilities
- Try to position yourself in a way where they can see you very well. Try to talk in front of the person and on the same level as the person. If they are sitting on a chair, you can grab another chair or kneel down and sit face to face with the person. They may find it be overpowering when you try to talk above their level.
- It’s important to get the person’s attention before you speak and maintain the eye contact as you continue to speak
- If they seem to be puzzled looking at you, wondering who you are and why you are there, briefly introduce yourself to get them oriented.
- Make sure the person is not concerned about anything else like hunger or pain and that his/her needs are met so that they can pay attention to you
- Have a topic ready to talk about. Try to talk about something easily relatable in the environment and not anything abstract as it may be difficult for them to process
- Although they find it difficult to understand speech, people with Dementia can easily sense non-verbal cues, such as our expression and gestures and can quickly identify our mood. If we seem to be worried or sad, they can detect that and they may get worried too. Hence, try to be calm always, use relaxed body language without being in a hurry or being tensed.
Factors to be considered while you speak to a person with Dementia:
- Try to use simple and short sentences as they are easier to process
- Speak slowly and clearly, giving enough pauses between the sentences to give them enough time to process and respond back
- Do not treat them and talk to them as you would do to a child, in a disrespectful manner. They can easily sense that and may feel hurt.
- Be careful of the tone of language that you use. Do not speak very loudly as they may mistake it as scolding and it can make them feel uncomfortable
- Try to carry out back and forth conversations on a topic and avoid asking back to back questions to them as they may feel you are interrogating them
- Focus on one particular topic at a time. Don’t shift the topic rapidly as they may find it difficult to process
- When the person does not seem to understand what you speak, try to break it down into smaller chunks of information and simplify it. You can also give additional cues through the non-verbal modes of communication such as by pointing at pictures or objects, showing gestures and facial expressions. (e.g. Pointing to the plate if you are talking about eating, showing a picture of the person you are talking about)
When they speak, LISTEN PATIENTLY
- Listen throughout as they speak, without interrupting, even when it does not make any sense at all.
- When you feel they are not able to get out the word properly, listen carefully, and look for the non-verbal cues and their body language and try to interpret what they are trying to say. You can also ask them to explain it in a different way or give prompts if you know what they are trying to say.
- If they are feeling emotional, listen to them and allow them to vent it out
Amidst all the difficulties faced by persons with Dementia, let us try to make communication a better experience for them. We can change the way how we speak to them, listen to them, and understand them by considering the factors mentioned above.
Consult us to know more about speech and language therapy for adults with Dementia.
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