How to Communicate with Dementia Patients Successfully
Clear and Concise Communication is Best For Dementia Patients
In caring for dementia patients, it is important to realize that dementia is not just a loss of memory. Dementia is a condition which affects a patient’s ability to reason, to process information and to learn. Over time dementia doesn’t just take away one’s memories, it alters their personalities too. When striving for successful communication with dementia patients, the key is to be patient and focus on your non-verbal communication as well as clear verbal language.
When speaking with a loved one or a patient with dementia, you will have more success if you speak slowly and distinctly, using clear and simple words. Before asking the patient to do something, address him or her by their name. Use a calm and reassuring voice. Maintain eye contact to hold their attention. Clearly ask only one question at a time and give the patient ample time to reflect and respond. Rushing the patient can increase confusion.
Dementia Care Resources
- National Institute on Aging | The Leader in Aging Research
- Dementia.org - Causes, Symptoms, Test, Treatment, Prevention
- Alzheimer's Association - What is Dementia
What is dementia? Learn about dementia symptoms, diagnosis, stages, treatment and care. Get info on dementia types, including vascular, Lewy bodies, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease.
The Importance of Non-Verbal Communication with Dementia Patients
According to the Alzheimer's Society, "Non-verbal communication is particularly important for a person with dementia who is losing their language skills." Body language, tone of voice and facial expressions relay vast amounts of information to a person with cognitive impairment. Because dementia patients have difficulty processing auditory information, the way language is received is just as important as what is said. Remember the importance of love and affection, even if your loved one cannot reciprocate. Sometimes holding hands, gently touching or hugging will get the patient to respond. In addition, using gestures is also helpful in communicating; demonstrate an action or point to objects.
Helpful Tips For Communicating With Dementia Patients
1. Try to maintain a structured daily routine. Dementia patients have difficulty dealing with change as it creates confusion.
2. Be involved with the patient as he or she performs daily tasks as this helps maintain self-esteem.
3. Especially for loved ones, keep your expectations of what the patient can do realistic. If your expectations are in line, you can expect less frustration on both your parts. Typically loved ones, especially spouses, expect the patient to perform tasks as they once did.
4. Many dementia patients suffer from confusion, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, irritability and depression. Keep in mind dementia patients have good days and bad days. Appreciate the good days and be more accepting on the bad days.
5. Like most people, dementia patients are groggy and more disoriented when they wake from a nap or a night’s sleep. Expect this and guide him through the conversation.
6. Break down all tasks into simple steps and give one direction at a time.
7. If the patient does not respond to a question, patiently ask it again. If still no response, rephrase the question and try a different angle.
8. If you are not able to get a response from the patient or loved one, try not to speak about them as if they were not there. Have respect for the person and make them a part of the conversation, even if they aren't reciprocating.
9. Refrain from debating over the correct answer. Dementia patients are easily confused. Their time frame and reality may be different than yours.
10. Make sure no one talks down to or patronizes a person with dementia. No one likes to be scolded or treated inferior. Continue to have respect for the patient as another human being.
11. Loved ones, who are caregivers, may get angry and frustrated. If you do get angry, try not to blame the patient for your feelings. Dementia patients cannot change their behavior for you. Talk to a friend when you need to vent and try not to get angry at your loved one.