When an older family member has dementia, one of the most frustrating things about the disease can be the difficulty of communicating. It’s hard for family caregivers to know whether what they are saying is being understood. On top of that, you may be feeling some difficult emotions that complicate communicating even more. Knowing some tips for communication, like the five below, can make communicating a little easier.
1: Take a Moment to Calm Yourself
Sometimes dealing with a family member who has dementia can make you feel very emotional. If you find yourself feeling that way, take a few minutes to gather yourself. Take some deep breaths and wait until you feel calmer before starting a conversation. Check your body language and facial expression before engaging in conversation since these cues are something that people with dementia can pick up on. If they can tell you are feeling upset, it may upset them, too.
2: Set Up the Room
A person with dementia will have an easier time following a conversation if the room isn’t busy and noisy. Before you start talking, turn off the television or radio. Ask others in the room to go to another room or take the senior to a quieter room. Turn off or silence your cell phone and make sure there are no children running around the room. All these things can distract the older adult, taking their focus off what you have to say.
3: Introduce Yourself
Even if you spend a lot of time with the older adult, they may not remember who you are. Introduce yourself using your name and your relationship to the person. It can help to gently touch the person’s arm or hand to make sure you have their attention. Then, say something like, “Hi Mom. It’s me, Amy, your daughter.”
4: Speak Simply
Use short, simple sentences to get your point across. If you are asking questions, keep them easy to respond to. Ask questions that give the person a choice between two things. For example, instead of asking what they want to wear, ask them if they want to wear the red shirt of the blue shirt.
5: When All Else Fails, Just Let Them Know You Care
No matter what you do, you won’t always be able to get your aging relative to understand. Instead of getting frustrated, just let them know you care about them and how they’re feeling. Give them a hug, smile, or touch their shoulder to express your love.
Elder care can also help with communicating with older adults who have dementia. The elder care providers who aid your older family member are likely to have experience with caring for people who have dementia. Elder care providers are adept at understanding what the person needs or wants and communicating their instructions, too.