Discovering that a loved one has dementia can be difficult to understand and accept, as this condition often changes relationship dynamics. It’s important to remember that you and your loved one will still share many wonderful conversations and make happy memories together. However, you may need to adjust your expectations and adopt new communication tactics. If you’re struggling, check out the following tips for communicating with someone with dementia.
Tips for Communicating with Someone with Dementia
Set Healthy Expectations
Before visiting your loved one, mentally prepare yourself. Go into the interaction with the mindset that your conversations will probably sound and feel much different than they did before. Dementia patients have good days and bad days, as the progression of this disease doesn’t follow a predictable pattern. If you go into the interaction expecting a simple conversation with some repetition required, you might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
It’s hard enough for anyone to hold a meaningful conversation when there are multiple distractions present; it can be especially difficult for a dementia patient. Instead of trying to talk in a busy restaurant or a senior living community’s common area, seek out a place that offers peace and quiet. Omit any background noise coming from a television or radio. Then, put your phone on silent and focus on the conversation at hand.
Speak Clearly and Stay Focused
When talking to your loved one, try not to mumble and avoid talking down to them (as though they are a child). In addition, try to leave little room for misinterpretation. For example, use people’s first names when possible and avoid pronouns. It may feel redundant, but it can prevent frequent repetition or confusion. Lastly, try to keep the conversation down to one topic at a time. Don’t talk about two subjects at once or switch between topics rapidly.
Avoid engaging in important conversations when you feel pressed for time. Learning important information from a dementia patient takes time. If you feel rushed, it can be difficult to remain calm and patient. Expect to repeat yourself frequently, and if your loved one doesn’t recall the answer to a question or forgets who you are, try not to press the issue too hard. Tomorrow may be a better day for communicating.
Avoid Excessive Correcting
While it’s okay to occasionally correct your loved one when they say something untrue or get confused, sometimes it’s best to let it go. Constantly correcting small details can cause your loved one to close off from you and get agitated, which can hurt your chances of having a pleasant conversation that day.
In fact, some experts believe it is okay to occasionally lie to dementia patients about small details or go along with a story because the person is experiencing a different reality. They call this coping mechanism therapeutic fibbing.
If you struggle with the idea of letting inaccuracies slide or going along with your loved one’s perceived reality, it’s important to remember that if a dementia patient struggles with short-term memory function, he or she will likely forget the interaction quickly. Sometimes it’s better to maintain the intimacy and ease of a conversation than insisting on the truth.
We hope you find these tips for communicating with someone with dementia helpful. One last word of advice: Finding an assisted living community that specializes in memory care can be a great resource when it comes to dementia and communication.
Located in the heart of downtown Greenville, South Carolina, Waterstone on Augusta is a premier assisted living and memory care community. We offer a welcoming environment and an enriching lifestyle for our seniors. Plus, we provide support services for family members and engage residents through social events, activities, and games. Schedule a tour online or give us a call at 864-568-0482.