The reality is that as dementia progresses, grasping communication and language becomes increasingly difficult. The rate at which language and communication issues develop is completely dependent on the individual and their state of dementia. It’s important to understand that throughout this time care giver’s need to take heed of dementia communication and how they communicate.
A poor choice of words can end up causing frustration, agitation, confusion and even anger in some scenarios. Here are a few pointers on what not to say to someone with dementia…
5 Tips for Dementia Communication
1. ‘Remember when?’
Memory recall can be a painful and frustrating experience for dementia sufferers. Try and avoid jogging the memory of a care receiver with this phrase, but instead coax them into joining a conversation about the past with phrases such as ‘I remember when…’. This way they won’t feel agitated or embarrassed about memory lapses.
2. ‘I just told you that’
As a care giver a large part of your job will be having to answer the same questions, multiple times a day. Instead of projecting your frustration or impatience at this, try to remain understanding. Your frustration will only create an agitated state for both you and your care receiver and remind them of the disease they are suffering with.
3. Using the terms ‘love’, ‘dear’, ‘honey’
The use of these terms can come across as patronising for those with dementia or any elderly person, for that matter. Often referred to as ‘elderspeak’, try and avoid talking down to your loved one or client by not using these phrases.
4. ‘Your sister died 5 years ago’
In an instance where a dementia patient asks after a loved one who may have passed away, sensitivity is key. Dementia sufferers may forget about past bereavement, so bringing up this stark reality could cause them distress, or to go into another period of bereavement all over again. In this type of situation, try and create an alternative reason for a person’s absence.
5. ‘What did you get up to this morning?’
Open-ended questions with dementia sufferers should be avoided where possible. Asking too many questions which require memory recall can be stressful, frustrating and even embarrassing for those with dementia. Instead, focus on the present and the task at-hand, minimising instances where memory recall is needed. Instead of asking an open-ended question such as ‘what would you like for breakfast?’ give them two options to choose from: ‘toast or cereal for breakfast?’
A great technique when communicating with someone with dementia is to use their name as often as you can, but in a natural way. It helps them to feel recognised, important and keeps dignity in-tact. Ultimately, good communication is key to helping somebody with dementia live well.