When our loved ones are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, or another form of dementia, we may feel overwhelmed and unprepared to deal with the impending challenges. Watching our loved one deteriorate as the disease progresses can be very painful. As their simple forgetfulness becomes greater and greater, we are faced with the challenge of how to communicate with them successfully. Knowing how to communicate with our loved ones who suffer from dementia can be an important key as their condition worsens.
Communication allows us to create a strong emotional connection. Because our loved ones with dementia are suffering from memory and cognitive impairment, we need to adjust our communication skills to their needs. Here are some communication tips that can help:
Think big instead of small. It is best to ask open-ended questions, rather than detailed ones, because this encourages discussion and conversation without making our loved one feel frustrated that they cannot remember a certain point or detail.
Do not judge or be critical. We never want to be judgmental or critical, but we want to make them feel comfortable and at ease. Instead of correcting our loved one, try to be compassionate and let any misstatements or inaccuracies go.
No distractions. Speak with your loved one in a distraction-free and quiet environment. This will allow your loved one to focus all their mental energy on the conversation.
Be a good listener. Nod your head and smile throughout the conversation. If you don’t understand something, ask an open-ended question to encourage more conversation. When you maintain eye contact and have comfortable body language, your loved one will feel at ease and recognize that you are someone familiar, even if they don’t remember who you are.
Speak calmly. Speak clearly in a calm voice and do not use excitable language. Use people’s names rather than pronouns to help your loved one follow along. Make sure to greet your loved one by name and use it in the conversation.
Be agreeable. Accept the blame when something is wrong instead of arguing with your loved one. Agree with your loved one and allow plenty of time for them to understand what you are saying. Be patient, reassuring, and forgiving. Try to focus on how they are feeling rather than what they are saying. Do not argue with them or confront them. Leave the room if you must to avoid confrontation.
Keep it simple. Use short simple sentences for better comprehension. When giving instructions, use the same wording each time to help them remember. You may need to repeat instructions several times. Speak clearly and naturally on one subject at a time.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. Your loved one may have good days and bad days. Always do your best to keep the communication positive and pleasant. Be patient with your loved one and always be loving and respectful. Reflect on the good memories with your loved one and recognize that they cannot control their deterioration. Knowing how to communicate more effectively can help you cope with this difficult situation.