Though it’s one of the most important things you can do, communicating with someone with dementia can be a challenging and emotionally sensitive endeavor, as the disease can gradually affect their ability to communicate. These changes vary based on the person and where they are in the disease process. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when communicating with someone who has dementia, in order to foster understanding, empathy and a continued sense of love and companionship.

Embrace Patience and Empathy: Recognize they may struggle to express themselves or even remember important details. Avoid rushing or interrupting them during conversations, and be attentive to non-verbal cues and emotions.  

Use Simple and Clear Language: Dementia can impact language comprehension, so it’s crucial to use straightforward and concise language when speaking with your loved one. Avoid using jargon, complex sentences or abstract concepts. Instead, opt for short sentences and one idea at a time. Remembering to slow down a little can help both you and your loved one manage your emotions, while helping them understand that you value and respect them.

Establish Eye Contact and Positive Body Language: Non-verbal communication plays a significant role in connecting with someone who has dementia. Smile warmly and use gentle touch when appropriate, as these gestures can foster a sense of comfort and security.

Practice Patient Active Listening: Give your loved one your undivided attention, show interest in what they have to say and avoid interrupting or finishing their sentences. Encourage them to express themselves and share their emotions and experiences, while being patient, so they have the time they need to gather their thoughts and respond.

Use Visual Aids and Memories: Photos and familiar objects can trigger memories and facilitate communication, as can discussing past experiences, events or cherished memories. This technique can promote a sense of connection and emotional well-being, as it taps into retained long-term memories.

Establish Routine and Familiarity: Regularly scheduled activities and consistent communication patterns can help reduce anxiety and confusion. Familiar environments and settings can also help with communication, as they evoke a sense of security and recognition.

Speak in a Gentle and Calm Manner: Raising your voice may cause agitation or distress, so try and maintain a moderate volume and pace, ensuring your speech is clear and easily understood. 

Be Prepared for Repetition: Repetition is common in dementia, as individuals may forget they have already asked a question or shared a story. Instead of pointing this out, respond with patience and understanding. Repeating information can provide comfort and reassurance to your loved one, who may seek continuity and familiarity.

One of the best things you can do as a care partner, is to take care of yourself. N4 offers five hours a week of free Respite Care services for your loved ones to give unpaid caregivers like you time to relax and recharge. Respite Care can be provided in your home, or by taking your loved one into the community.

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