Communicating with a parent or family member who has dementia can sometimes be tricky. One day their symptoms may not be as intense, and the next they could have a difficult time remembering basic items. Dementia is a disease that does not form overnight. In short increments of time, portions of memory slowly start to drift away, and for many families, adjusting to a loved one’s new lifestyle may require improved communication strategies.
Here are three tips for connecting with your loved one during this phase of life.
Take Inventory Of Your Surroundings
Before you even start a conversation, make sure you’re in a good environment. Distractions can delay your capacity to hold the attention of a loved one with dementia. Avoid loud, high traffic areas and places with lots of clutter. Limit any background noise, such as a TV or blaring music, as much as possible.
When it comes to talking with your loved one, position yourself toward them so they can clearly see you. As dementia progresses, non-verbal communication becomes even more important, so being aware of your body language is crucial. In addition, touch can also be helpful. Putting your arm around your parent or holding their hand during a conversation, for example, can help keep them engaged.
Speak Clearly And Slowly
One of the primary symptoms of dementia is memory loss, and because of this, it can take those with dementia longer to process incoming information. Pay attention to your tone of voice and use simple words to prevent miscommunication. Avoid asking multiple questions or switching quickly between topics as this can become overwhelming.
In addition, avoid showing offense or arguing abruptly. Making unexpected statements can confuse or disrupt your interactions. If your loved one is confused about what you’re saying, try to rephrase instead of repeating yourself.
Note: Avoid talking at your loved one or talking about them as if they aren’t there. Respect and consideration go a long way in maintaining a positive relationship as dementia progresses.
RELATED: Understanding Dementia Behaviors
Be Patient And Compassionate
The truth is that it can become more difficult to connect with your family member if they have dementia. The family gatherings you had in the past may be difficult to relive. Your loved one may be more easily confused and unable to hold high-level conversations.
Be patient with them. They may grow frustrated or upset if they’re struggling to understand. Be compassionate and remember that dementia is a disease – and while it can alter the way your loved one communicates and behaves, it doesn’t define the person they’ve always been.
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