20 tips for talking with a dementia sufferer so you both enjoy yourselves
It can be difficult communicating with someone suffering from dementia and for many of us the first time we have to do it is when one of our loved ones starts developing dementia or Alzheimers disease – we have put together some tips around communication techniques that make such a big difference. They matter a lot when every chat can feel weighted down by sadness, anger and fear.
Thanks to these tips you will find talking to someone with dementia easier, more meaningful, more enjoyable and more rewarding.
- Take a minute to ground yourself before starting a conversation. Breathe in and out slowly, and be aware of every breath. It’s a very good way to calm down quickly and feel ready for anything.
- Stay positive and calm. It’s important because people with dementia pick up on emotions, especially when they don’t match the tone of voice you’re using.
- Turn off the radio or TV, close the door of the room, send the kids out of the room, turn off gadgets and phones. Things like this are more than a simple distraction to a person with dementia, they can be very distressing.
- Always tell the person who you are, so they’re not afraid or worried. Tell them how you’re related as well. This helps bring back memories in addition to helping them feel safe.
- Watch your body language. Eye contact means you are definitely listening, and your body language needs to match the words you’re saying. Be conscious of that.
- Bring a carer in if the person gets distressed or confused. It’s OK to ask for help settling them down.
- Be patient. They’re worth it.
- Give a choice between two things, or ask yes or no questions. It’s easier for people with dementia when there’s less choice. Offer two choices of drink, or ask whether or not they want a snack.
- Speak slowly. Give them the time they need to understand you and make connections.
- Use simple words and short sentences. Pause in between sentences for as long as they need you to.
- Don’t ask “why” questions or force someone to talk about a subject when they’re not in the mood.
- Don’t interrupt. Focus on listening to them.
- Say exactly what you mean. Use a name or point. When you mention another person, also mention the relationships between the three of you.
- Never assume what someone is going to say, and don’t finish their sentences for them.
- Don’t assume they don’t want to participate in activities. Respect them. Give them time they need to form and express their own opinions and feelings.
- Do active listening, where you make your communications even clearer by nodding and using other ways to show them you are listening, interested and engaged. Experiment to find out which validations they prefer. Their carer might know if you don’t.
- If they’re about to do something dangerous, redirect them to something safer rather than panic, shout or force them.
- Try communicating by drawing, writing or music. Verbal communication might not always be their first choice. Don’t forget humans also communicate via sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
- Spend as much time as you can together. If it’s difficult to focus on them because there are so many practical things you need to do to keep them comfortable, think about getting help from professional carers.
- Remember the person, no matter how little is left of them, loved you and loves you still. This also helps to make you feel more able to cope.
Do all of this and you stand a better chance of having good, positive conversations with the person you love, despite their dementia.
At Evercare Medway Swale we are used to talking to people with Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, if you feel you need any extra help to talk to your loved one, do feel free to ring the team on 01634 295630
See below for some websites where you can get additional help with how to communicate with people with Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.