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Ten Tips for Communicating with Your Love Ones with Dementia


Dementia is not something uncommon and it requires a great amount of effort and patients in communicating with them. Having the right communication skills can help make less stressful and it will likely improve your relationship with your loved ones.

1. Setting a positive mood for interactionAttitude and body languages plays an important role by communicating your feelings and thoughts. Using facial expressions and physical touch with pleasant tonality can help to convey your feelings of affection beyond words.

2. Gaining their attention – Limit distractions and noises such as turning off music, shutting the doors or moving to a quieter environment. Make sure you have their attention before speaking, start off by calling their names and identifying your name and relationship. Be sure to make sure of nonverbal cues such as looking at them in the eyes and personal touch to help them stay focuses.

3. Communicating your message clearly – Speak using simple words, sentences and language that they are familiar with. Refrain from raising your voice and speak slowly in a reassuring tone. It is normal that they do not understand the first time, be patient and repeat the message again. If they still do not understand, wait awhile before rephrasing the message.

4. Ask simple and answerable questions – Asking one question at a time, preferably those with yes or no answers with visual aid. For example, do you wish to wear black or white shirts (show them the shirts)? Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices.

5. Listen with your heart – Be patient in waiting for their reply, suggest words and guide them to an answer if they are struggling for an answer. Watch out for nonverbal cues and respond appropriately. Be attentive to uncover the underlying meaning of their responds.

6. Breaking down the activities into a series of small steps – This can help to make the tasks much more manageable and can help to create a connection between the series of actions. Encourage them to do what they can and remind them of the steps that they tend to forget. Going through the motions with them can also greatly improve their confidence and memory. 

7. When the going gets tough, distract and redirect – When your loved one becomes upset, try changing the subject or the environment. For example, ask them for help (this provides them with confidence that they are capable of helping) or even suggest going for a walk to relax. It is important to connect with the person on a feeling level, before you redirect.

8. Respond with affection and reassurance – People with dementia often feel confused, anxious and uncertain of themselves. Furthermore, they often get confused with reality and may recall things that never occurred. Avoid trying to convince them they are wrong. Stay focused on the feelings they are demonstrating (which are real) and respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort, support and reassurance. Sometimes holding hands, touching, hugging and praise will get the person to respond when all else fails.

9. Recalling the good old days – Remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. Many people with dementia may not remember what happened 30 minutes ago, but they can clearly recall things 30 years ago. Therefore, avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, such as what they had for lunch. Instead, try asking general questions about the person’s distant past—this information is more likely to be retained.

10.Adding a sense of humour – Use humour whenever possible, people with dementia tend to retain their social skills and are usually delighted to laugh along with you.

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