10 tips for communicating with someone suffering moderate to severe dementia:
- Recognise and understand dementia – it is a disease that does worsen over time. It’s important to understand and accept this inevitability and that your patient or loved one will have a harder time understanding others, than you will them.
- Avoid distractions – try to find a quiet, peaceful place to talk where there aren’t any distractions to detract from their mental ‘energy’.
- Make sure to speak clearly and naturally – it’s always best to use your normal voice and tone, avoid using ‘baby talk’ or patronising ways of speaking.
- When talking about specific people, refer to them by name – avoid using words such as ‘he’ or ‘she’ as this could become confusing for your loved one or patient. Names are an important part of memory recall.
- Talk about one topic at a time – try not to mix up conversation topics. A sufferer of dementia may find even one topic overwhelming, so remember to properly engage in one conversation thread at a time.
- Use non-verbal cues where you can – maintain good eye contact, smile and touch a hand or arm, helps to keep them at ease and at times, facilitate understanding.
- Actively concentrate on listening – if you don’t understand something they are telling you, politely let them know what you cannot understand.
- Let the small things go – it may be pointless to quibble over misstatements, mispronunciations or delusions, sometimes it’s easier to let the small things go.
- Be patient – give your patient or loved one the time they need to understand what you’re saying and the time to process their response. Try not let frustration get the better of you!
- Make room for good days and bad days – some days your loved one or patient may seem more like their former self than others. It’s important to remember that dementia sufferers have both good and bad days just like everyone else!
Many loved ones and carers may refer to elderly parents or grandparents with dementia as a ‘shell of their former selves’, but it is important to remember that within the person you may not recognise their former selves still exist. With enough patience and a few of these communication strategies you will be able to best understand your loved one or patient and treat them with the dignity they deserve…