When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia it takes a toll on the whole family. A loved one that has dementia or Alzheimer’s finds it difficult to communicate with this individual. The ways to communicate with the person who has dementia is important for all the family to learn. This is whether or not they are in a nursing facility or at home. The first thing to remember is to focus on the feelings not the facts, because sometimes it is the emotions’ being expressed that is more important than the facts. An individual with dementia has trouble expressing an emotion when speaking. Look for the feelings behind the words; listen to the clues of tone of voice and actions to understand what is being expressed.
When communicating with an individual with dementia be patient and supportive. It is imperative the person with dementia know you are listening and trying to understand what they are saying. Keep good eye contact, and let them know it is ok if they are having trouble communicating, and encourage them to continue to explain their thoughts. Always remember, don’t tell the person with dementia that what they are saying is incorrect, this may cause some agitation and anxiety. Instead, listen and try to find the meaning of what they are saying. You can even repeat what they said, because it helps with clarity and they will not any offense to it.
Do not argue with a person with dementia, if they say something wrong just let it be. Arguing with the person with dementia will only make things worse, and may agitate the individual so much they become combative and aggressive, both things you do not want. Offering a guess when they use the wrong word, or cannot find the right word to the individual with dementia works well. If you understand what they are trying to say then you may not need a guess. Furthermore, when speaking with a person with dementia always limit the distractions to help them maintain focus on the conversation.
Some of the things you should always remember when communicating with someone who has dementia, indentify yourself, and call them by their name. When speaking about something always use short, simple words and sentences, and talk slowly and clearly. In addition, give one-step directions, and ask one question at a time. Always patiently wait for the response, and repeat information and question to elicit a response. For more information on communicating with a person with dementia or Alzheimer, contact the Alzheimer’s Association at http://www.alz.org, or the National Institute on Aging Information Center at http://www.nih.gov.