Old age is often associated with several health conditions, and dementia is among them. Dementia is not only about memory loss. It affects an individual’s ability to reason, understand and process information as well as their ability to converse. Thus, communicating with seniors living with dementia may at times be challenging and frustrating.
It hurts to see your loved one struggling to recognize their closest people, especially when the condition progresses. People with dementia are more prone to anxiety and mood swings which often result in depression. Now, it’s essential for you as a caregiver to learn how to communicate with them effectively without hurting their feelings. Here are five tips you can use to communicate with seniors with dementia.
- Explain Things Carefully and more Than Once
Short term memory loss is common among people with dementia. Thus you may have to express one thing repeatedly to ensure that your senior understands what you are trying to communicate. You will need to speak calmly and slowly to avoid irritating them. Ensure that your questions are simple. Ask one thing at a time and if they don’t understand, repeat your statement. Again, if they seem not to understand you better, try to incorporate non-verbal communication to make sure they understand what you are saying.
Jane Byrne at FirstCare.ie points out that there are many types of dementia, each with their own causes and symptoms. “However, there are similarities across the board, which we need to combat. Dementia is so widespread nowadays that all healthcare professionals really have to stand up and take notice.”
- Be Patient
Seniors with dementia are often slow to respond to conversations. Sometimes they get confused and even recall things from the past that never happened. They also struggle with grasping words and sometimes they may talk about things that do not make sense. Don’t rush to point out their mistakes or force them to respond quickly. Instead, pay attention to what they are saying and show them you surely understand.
- Grab their Attention Softly
Ensure you get their attention first before you start communicating with them. If there are distractions and noise, move into a quieter place. If they don’t recognize you, don’t be upset. Remind them how you are related to them to help them focus on the conversation. Remain calm and understanding, and although sometimes they can be irritating, try as much as possible to play cool and soft.
- Be Clear and Concise
Try as much as possible to use simple words and sentences when conversing with dementia patients. Refrain from raising your voice and always maintain a low pitch. Even when they don’t seem to understand you, speak to them slowly and use names when referring to someone or places instead of using pronouns-he, she, it or they. This will help them not to get confused during the conversation.
- Avoid Lengthy Conversations
People with dementia get easily distracted, and you can quickly lose their attention with your wordy explanations. They tend to forget a simple conversation after a minute or two. Thus you don’t expect them to remember or understand long-winded information.
In conclusion, talking to seniors with dementia is not a simple task. It requires a lot of patience, understanding, and use of non-verbal gestures. Don’t let them irritate you when they don’t understand what you are saying. Instead, break down the information into short and clear sentences to ensure they stay engaged in the conversation. Let them feel you understand them to avoid them being emotional or getting angry.