Dementia Communication Tips That Actually Work
Seniors with dementia often struggle with communication, especially in the later stages of the disease. Common communication issues include struggling to find the right word in conversation, finding it difficult to complete a train of thought, and repeating the same sentence or thought multiple times throughout the conversation. These issues can be hard to cope with at first, especially since this is your loved one. However, it’s important to stay positive and learn new strategies to effectively communicate. Here are 5 tips that actually work, provided by our memory caregivers in Gloucester County.
Tip #1: Making an optimal environment for communication. Set the tone for good communication to happen by ensuring that you and your loved one are in a quiet and calm space. Also, turn off any loud or visually distracting devices like TVs, computers, radios or bright overhead lights. Busy, stimulating spaces are harder for people with dementia to navigate, especially if they are trying to focus on a specific train of thought.
Tip #2: Ensure all their needs are met beforehand. Has dad eaten lunch yet? Did mom take her morning pills? It’s important that your loved one’s personal and medical needs are met before attempting to have any constructive conversations. If your loved one is hungry, or worse – in pain, it can be very difficult for them to pay attention to the task at hand.
Tip #3: Clear your schedule so you have enough time. Patience is key when it comes to communicating with your loved one with dementia. If you’re feeling rushed to get to another commitment, it’s easy for your patience to wear thin. With that said, plan your day accordingly – take care of other commitments before sitting down and having quality time and communication with mom or dad.
Tip #4: Prepare conversation topics and put yourself in their shoes. Think about previous conversations that went over well with mom or dad – why did they go so well? Was the conversation about a beloved long-term memory like mom hosting for the holidays? Or was the conversation successful because you really engaged with what dad was saying, even if it wasn’t necessarily true? It helps to prepare conversation topics ahead of time that you know will have a positive impact on your loved one. It also helps to really think about what you would need from a conversation to feel validated, i.e. positive body language like more eye contact or nodding in agreement.
Tip #5: Positive reinforcement. If your loved one is talking up a storm and then stops suddenly, gently encourage them to keep going through verbal and non-verbal cues. As mentioned above, be conscious to make more eye contact or nod here and there. If they seem frustrated, for example, if they can’t find the right word for something, ask them to describe the object instead. Whatever cue you decide to take, keep your cool and try to stay positive. Even if your loved one becomes upset and you’re not sure how to stay positive, just show you’re really listening. After they express their concerns, reiterate you are there for them no matter what – because after all sometimes all we really need is for someone to listen.
Dementia support for seniors in Gloucester County
It’s not easy to care for a loved one with memory loss without any support, especially if your loved one’s condition worsens and is beyond your repertoire of knowledge. It truly takes a village to care for a loved one with dementia, and sometimes the best care can no longer be provided at home.
At Pitman, our Tapestries® memory care neighborhood has welcoming, dementia-safe apartments where seniors are encouraged to enjoy their hobbies, release their tensions, and have meaningful conversations every day. Our security personnel, as well as Life Enrichment Team Specialists, are on site 24/7 to ensure your loved one has the best care at all hours of the day.
If your loved one is showing early signs of dementia and you are having difficulty caring for them, please call 856-369-3092 to find out whether a move to a dedicated memory care community is the right option. To learn more about advanced memory care in Gloucester County, please contact United Methodist Communities at Pitman or visit our website at: https://umcommunities.org/pitman/