communication strategies for dementiaThere are many struggles that come with a diagnosis of dementia, but one of the most painful can be the struggle to communicate with your loved one. As their brain deteriorates, your loved one will experience a reduced ability to do all kinds of things, including the ability to communicate effectively. This can be frustrating for you as well, so it’s important to keep these strategies in mind.

  • Patience is Key

We know how hard it is to sit quietly while a loved one struggles to find the right words to express themselves, but it’s important to resist the urge to interrupt and try to guess what they’re saying because that will only increase their frustration. Instead, wait patiently until they’ve finished before you try to respond.

If you get frustrated, they’ll get frustrated, so you need to remain calm at all times. Keep your voice low and level, and while your body language should convey that you’re engaged in the conversation, it should never communicate frustration because your loved one will pick up on that and it will only increase their frustration.

  • Become an Interpreter

While it’s important not to interrupt your loved one when they’re struggling to find the right words to express themselves, sometimes they’ll ask for help or just give up trying to speak, in which case you can offer a guess based on context. Even if you guess wrong, you might be close enough to the mark to lead them to the right words (or for them to lead you to the right words). But if you’re way off base, it might just frustrate them further, so it’s important to know when to back off and change the subject.

  • Use Gestures

As the disease progresses, communicating visually will become easier than communicating with words. For example, instead of using words to ask your loved one if they want a certain object, you can point to it and watch their reaction. If they nod and reach for it, it’s a good indication that they want it.

  • Show Respect

Although our golden years are sometimes referred to as a “second childhood”, your loved one is not a child and will not appreciate being treated like one. Avoid using babytalk or demeaning phrases, such as “good girl”. And never talk about them as if they’re not there because, even if they have trouble communicating, they can hear you, and they know when they’re being ignored or overlooked.

When you are communicating with them, show that you’re engaged by maintaining eye contact. You can also hold their hand, which can help keep both of you calm when they’re struggling to find the right words to express themselves.

You can check out our blog for more tips on how to care for a loved one with dementia. If you’re looking for an assisted living community that offers memory care services, we recently opened our own Memory Care Wing and we would love to answer any questions you might have regarding memory care.

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