We all want the time we spend with our friends and family to be fun and laid back. When we’ve known each other for years, we’ve had countless catch ups in the past. Since they’ve been living with Dementia though, things seem to have changed. Talking to someone with Dementia can be more challenging.
How to talk to loved ones living with Dementia then? We know conversation can be harder. It might feel like walking on eggshells and trying to find things which don’t upset your loved one. Talking to someone with Dementia, it might seem like they don’t have too much to talk about and the conversation runs dry. Don’t fret, this is normal and it’s something we can work past it.
Here are some tips for communicating with someone with Dementia:
Sometimes the simple things are the most effective. Talking slightly more slowly, giving a brief pause before the next sentence, being clear and calm, and using short sentences can make a world of difference to the conversation. When talking to someone with Dementia, it is also really important to make sure you’re easy to see and hear. Stand or sit near your loved one, try to be at eye level and make eye contact like you usually would.
If you are doing some activities while you’re together, you might have to think about how you phrase your questions. Instead of asking ‘What do you fancy for dinner?’, swap that open-ended option for a question which gives only a couple of answers like, ‘Do you fancy a roast or spag bol today?’
If you’re struggling with how to talk with someone with Dementia, sometimes it’s best to take it easy with the questions. Reeling off a list, one after the other, can be tiring and intimidating. If your loved one is struggling for the words, try to let them complete their own sentences and don’t move on too quickly. Assuming you know what they’re going to say can sometimes make them feel as though they’re being talked down to and disregarded.
Just because your loved one is living with dementia; their instincts haven’t deserted them. When you walk into a room of new people at work, you can always tell whether someone feels uncomfortable or nervous with what they’re going to be presenting. It’s the same while you’re visiting your loved one for a chat.
If you are feeling apprehensive then it’s worth doing some research on open and positive body language to help your loved one feel reassured and comfortable during your visit. This article is an interesting introduction to calm positive body language tips for communicating with someone with Dementia.
Emotion is tied to your body language and we all know that coming to terms with a dementia diagnosis and the changes as the condition progresses, are difficult for everyone involved.
If relatives can’t recognise you, accuse you of doing something troubling or come out with something hurtful, it is really hard not to take these things to heart. Remember this is dementia talking, not your loved one. Take a moment to compose yourself and your thoughts if you feel you might lose your patience.
When talking to someone with Dementia, things might feel frustrating from time to time. Having patience is really important – when conversations feel like they’re moving slowly, don’t rush them. Smile, enjoy the conversation and listen. Or, if you need to, choose the right time to have certain conversations.
Picture the scene: the TV is on, the shopping has just been delivered, and there’s a dog barking across the street. Everyone’s attention is somewhere else and there’s not much chance of having a good conversation. Another of the ways to communicate with someone with Dementia is to make sure you lay the foundations by removing any distractions. Turn off the TV, finish unpacking the shopping, and wait until the postman’s finished delivering to the house across the street. Make sure you have your loved one’s attention before you start.
By extension, if you’re visiting a loved one, remember that routine is really important for people living with dementia. We always recommend trying to establish regular visits on fixed days. Have a chat with caregivers about the best time for your visit and if sundowning is a concern, it’s best to actively avoid evening visits.
Laughter is such a wonderful way for us to bond – it’s universal and infectious! When talking to someone with Dementia, there’s no harm in having a chuckle together about misunderstandings or mistakes. Laughter relieves tension and brings us together, but make sure your loved one knows you’re laughing together and not at anyone’s expense.
If the conversation isn’t flowing on a certain day, don’t fret. For people living with dementia constant chatter can be confusing and worrying. If you want to try a different tack, or if you feel uncomfortable, then dig out some of your loved one’s favourite music and put it on in the background. There’s no awkward silences and time together in each other’s company can be just as enjoyable.
It’s really important in all of this, that you’re not afraid to visit a loved one who is living with Dementia. Talking to someone with Dementia might take some practice but they’re still the person you know and love. Sometimes, those with Dementia might have difficulty in expressing themselves how they used to. Just knowing you’re nearby is a comfort for them.
If you have any questions on how to talk with someone with Dementia or would like some further support on this topic, our team is always available to offer advice. Alternatively, if you need additional support in caring for your loved one with Dementia, please get in touch here. Alternatively, you may wish to arrange a visit to your local Athena Care Home here.