6 Tips for Communicating with Dementia Patients

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Caregiver communication with senior woman

Dementia is an emotionally, mentally, and even physically debilitating syndrome that doesn’t just take a toll on the patients themselves but also on the family members and loved ones who care for them as well. As the syndrome progresses and the dementia patient’s cognitive abilities continue on a downward spiral, verbal and nonverbal communication can become increasingly challenging. When this inevitably happens, it’s important to keep in mind that as hard as it is for you as the caregiver to cope with this development, it’s actually a lot harder for the person who’s enduring it firsthand.

Practising a great deal of patience, understanding, and compassion is the cornerstone of maintaining your relationship with your loved one with dementia and maintaining an open and positive line of communication is important to helping maintain their overall health.

Tips for Successfully Communicating with Dementia Patients

There’s no doubt that caring for a dementia patient is hard, but there are several things you can do to ensure effective, meaningful communication on a practical and emotional level.

Treat the Person with Dignity and Respect

Just because a person’s mental capabilities have declined, it doesn’t mean they have ceased to be human. Far too often, so-called caregivers or authority figures think it’s acceptable to treat dementia patients inappropriately or condescendingly and this simply isn’t ethical. Speak to your loved one respectfully and with dignity to show them that they matter.

Don’t Criticize or Frequently Correct Them

It’s common for people who suffer from dementia to misremember facts or events. Sometimes, they might even recall things that didn’t actually happen (i.e. dream events) and that’s perfectly fine. Let them remember things however they want because constantly correcting them will only confuse and agitate them.

Avoid Distractions and Listen Intently

When conversing with your loved one with dementia, try to do it in an environment with limited or no distractions, such as their home, and always listen intently to what they have to say and frequently repeat words or phrases they use. This will help them concentrate on the conversation at hand without losing touch of the subject matter.

Encourage Nonverbal Communication

It’s important to instill the habit of using nonverbal forms of communication, such as pointing to objects, during the early stage of dementia because, as time goes on, it will be a lot harder for the person to communicate using words. Their mental capacity to learn new words or phrases will slowly diminish and, eventually, they won’t be able to physically articulate words anymore. You can encourage nonverbal communication by inconspicuously demonstrating it to them throughout your conversations.

Be Patient and Supportive

Understandably, caring for a dementia patient can be frustrating and even disheartening at times, but it’s essential that you keep your composure and maintain a positive attitude throughout each interaction. They’re still very perceptive of other people’s emotions, and if they sense that you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, those feelings will transfer over to them. Let them gather their thoughts during conversations, try to only ask simple questions with “yes” or “no” answers, and don’t inundate them with too many questions all at once.

Avoid Using Pronouns as Much as Possible

We tend to forget that general conversations tend to move pretty quickly, and it can often be extremely difficult for dementia patients to keep up with the flow of things. That’s why you should try to refrain from using pronouns such as “he” or “she” when referring to other people or “it” when referring to objects. Instead, state the person’s name every time you’re referring to them and always use the name or title of the object. Even when you greet them, be sure to repeat your own name so they know who you are.

At Home Care Assistance – Kitchener, Waterloo, and Guelph, it’s our duty and ultimate objective to ensure that every dementia patient in our caregivers’ care—whether it’s live-in care for older parents or part-time home care—receives the same respectful and attentive treatment they deserve. For more information on our services, please call us today at (519) 954-2111.


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