Communicating With a Loved One With Dementia

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, you may find it difficult to communicate with them effectively. They may have trouble understanding what you are saying or finding the words they need to respond. Many times, dementia patients experience personality changes and extreme mood swings that cause them to lash out from frustration.

Our training and experience caring for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients has taught us what works and what doesn’t when it comes to communication. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, we hope these tips will help you communicate with them more effectively and foster better interactions.

Focus on body language

It can be difficult and frustrating trying to communicate with someone who has dementia, especially if it is advanced. The most important thing to remember is that even if they don’t fully understand your words, they can still pick up on your tone and body language. 

So try to maintain a respectful, cheerful tone and friendly, comforting body language. If you find yourself getting upset, frustrated, or angry, step away and give yourself a minute to calm down and correct your body language to avoid escalating the situation. 

You should also watch their body language, so you can recognize when they are getting confused or frustrated and redirect the interaction appropriately. 

Get their undivided attention

Ambient noise can be distracting and overwhelming for dementia sufferers, so make sure that the room is as quiet as possible before speaking with them. Turn off the TV or music, shut the door and windows, or move to a quieter area. 

Make sure you’re at eye level with them and address them by their name to get their attention. Before you begin your questions or instructions, let them know who you are and your relationship to them. If they seem unfocused, try using body language or a gentle touch to direct their attention back to you.  

Speak plainly and simply

Be sure to use simple language and short sentences, and speak slowly and enunciate your words. If your loved one seems confused or does not respond, repeat yourself using the same words and tone and resist the urge to speak louder. 

Ask yes-or-no questions, rather than open-ended questions. If they need to decide between multiple options, limit it to just a couple of choices and provide a visual aid, if possible. In addition, if they need to perform a task, try breaking it down into simple, basic steps and introduce the steps one at a time.

Use empathy and compassion

As frustrating and upsetting as caring for a loved one with dementia can be, remember that it is extremely difficult for them as well. Recognize and respond to their feelings, and don’t try to argue with them or convince them otherwise when they misremember something. 

If your loved one begins to get agitated or distressed, use comforting words, tone, and body language and gentle, affectionate touch. It can also be helpful to change the topic and come back to it later or even move to a new environment. 

Reminisce together

Since Alzheimer’s and dementia affect short-term memory more severely than long-term, your loved one may still be able to recall their younger days. Many dementia sufferers can clearly remember their early lives and enjoy reminiscing about their youth. This activity is not only comforting and enjoyable for them. It also gives you the opportunity to learn more about their life and bond with them over their experiences.  

We hope that these tips will help communicate with your loved one better and create a warm, compassionate environment for them. But caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be a challenging, around-the-clock job, so don’t forget to take time for yourself. Our professional in-home caregivers would love to help support you and become a part of your loved one’s care team. For more information, visit (Home) or contact us at ((985) 778-2779). 

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