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Living with dementia: How to improve your communication with the person
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Five tips to change your approach to communication...

Dementia is a progressive illness which gradually affects a person’s ability to remember and understand everyday details including names, dates and places.

As such, it is an illness which greatly affects how a person can communicate, often making it difficult to express what they mean to say or what they are being told.

It also affects how the person can reason and their rationale, often as a result of not being able to understand and express as they normally would.

For many of us who care for or simply wish to interact with a loved one with dementia, it can be a difficult for both parties to establish effective communication.

As their dementia progresses it will be common for you to take responsibility to initiate conversations and encourage that person in conversation.

This is simply because their ability to process information, even simple information like a person’s name, will become progressively weaker.

It can also mean the person becomes slower in how they respond to you.

Our team at Visioncall are very aware of this being the case with residents, and as such we remain sensitive to their needs and make sure we adapt our approach for each person.

We do this because we strive to deliver a person-centred service, and each person we assist will have their own specific requirements for communicating.

Making a few simple changes to how you communicate can make a massive difference.

Here are five helpful tips to better communicate with someone living with dementia…


Lead the conversation

For a person living with dementia it is often the case that they will stop initiating conversations themselves.

Always bear this in mind, without encouragement they will not be forthcoming as they may find it difficult.

Remember to start the conversation yourself, speaking clearly, slowly and avoiding overlong sentences.


Take your time

This tip applies to both yourself and the person with dementia.

Start a conversation by taking your time and speaking slowly, afterwards simply give that person all the time they need to respond.

Rushing the person for a response will only put them under pressure, and will only achieve frustration for you both and distress that person.


It’s not all talk

You can communicate through other means than simply chatting with the person.

Remember that small gestures, your movement and even your facial expression are all powerful visual methods of getting your message across.

For a person who has dementia it can be common for speech to become difficult, so body language and simple physical contact such as holding their hand can become significant for them.


Listen carefully

How we communicate with anyone is always going to be a two-way process, and it is no different for someone with dementia.

Employ an ‘active listening’ approach, listening to not only their verbal communication but their physical messaging.

Using and encouraging eye contact can help you both, as well as a simple smile or physical contact to reassure the person (such as holding their hand).

We all get frustrated when people cannot understand what we mean to say, and this is no different for the person with dementia, let them communicate how they want to and listen to what they want to say.


Pay attention

When communicating with the person, give them your full attention when they are speaking.

Even a simple shake of the head or turning away for a moment may discourage that person from communicating with you, they may see it as disapproval.

Signpost to them that you are paying full attention by offering to turn the volume down on the TV or radio, they may want it unchanged but this gesture at least lets them know that you are there for them.

Finally, do not interrupt the person when they are trying to respond, be patient and give them time to fully engage in the conversation.

 

Encouraging regular communication is essential, we believe that despite a person’s dementia, they have a right to be included and not simply ignored.

We hope these tips help you on your way to achieving this. 

For more on our commitment to dementia eye care click here



 
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