To talk to someone with dementia choose a quiet location, go early, have topics, speak calmly but clearly, avoid excessive questions, laugh about misunderstandings, and show interest with body language.
It is heartbreaking to see loved ones struggle with dementia.
You can still have positive interactions with the right approach.
We will show how to talk to someone with dementia in this post.
How To Talk To Someone With Dementia
Learn how to speak, what to say, active listening, and communicate better with someone with dementia. Whether it’s a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle being able to enjoy a visit with better communication benefits seniors and their visitors.
Preparing To Talk
- Plan enough time to have a relaxed conversation that’s not rushed.
- Try to choose a time of day that is best for the senior. For many this is early in the day when they have better clarity and energy.
- Make sure their needs for food, medications for pain, or other needs are met before starting to talk.
- To have better talks with someone with dementia choose a location without excessive distractions. This means away from TV and radio.
- It’s important to make sure you have the senior’s full attention before you launch into your conversation.
- Sit close enough that you’re easy to hear but not so close you’re invading personal space. Ensure you’re making and maintaining natural eye contact.
- Show your mood through relaxed body language that’s open and non-threatening.
- Consider what topics you bring up. Having some uplifting topics in advance may help. Also choosing things to talk about from your surroundings can help encourage conversation.
How To Listen
- Be an active listener. While you’ve likely heard a story or two before; remember that you’re visiting them to enjoy time together. Be encouraging about what they are saying and listen with intent.
- Be mindful of how they are feeling as you’re listening. If they’re struggling to find a word or complete a sentence encourage them to find a different way to tell you about their story or idea.
- When or if you’re confused about what they are saying try to state as much of what you have understood. Watch carefully as you paraphrase what you’ve heard to see if they feel understood or frustrated.
- Don’t shut down sad feelings or thoughts. If you dismiss them they feel uncared for and alone. There are times where simply listening is the best thing you can do. It validates them as a person and makes them feel heard.
- Give them time to collect their thoughts and respond. While the back and forth with younger people is lightning fast people with dementia take longer to sort out what they want to say and find the words that best express their thoughts. Try not to interrupt while they work through how they want to respond or express themselves.
How To Talk
- Speak more slowly and allow them to process between sentences. Wait for them to respond to show respect for their contribution to the conversation.
- You’re bound to have a few misunderstandings in the conversation. Ensure that you keep the mood light and laugh at these. Make sure you are laughing at the misunderstanding and they don’t get the feeling you’re laughing that them.
- Get the senior speaking with more than just you. By including others in conversation with them you reengage them in social interaction. This helps reduce feelings of isolation or exclusion.
- Use a calm and clear voice to communicate.
- Speak simply and try to use short sentences.
- Try not to raise your voice or be aggressive.
- Have a conversation instead of asking question after question. Allow them to speak and steer the conversation towards positive topics when possible.
What To Talk About
- Try to ask questions that are easy to answer. Instead of open ended questions such as “what would you like to do today?” Try to suggest an activity such as “Would you like to take a walk in the garden?”. This makes it easy for them to answer with a “yes” or “no”.
- Avoid questions that are complicated or asking too many questions. If the senior cannot come up with an answer it puts their limitations in the spotlight and can make them feel depressed and frustrated.
- Wait for answers to questions you ask. Don’t overwhelm them with too much at one time. If you ask about a walk in the garden, wait for an answer. If they didn’t want that suggest another activity and wait for a response.
- Overcome confusion by breaking down a subject into smaller concepts. Follow through the conversation slowly by discussing each point that leads to a larger idea or conclusion.
- Be aware of if they are tired from the exertion of conversation. Adjust the duration of your visits to match the ability level of the senior you’re visiting.
- Redirect confused thoughts to discover unmet needs. For example, if a senior with dementia talks about needing to get ready to go to work they might not feel a sense of purpose. This means they need more activity or stimulation to feel active and involved.
Mind Your Body Language
- As dementia progresses how you look as you say things becomes increasingly important. In later stages it becomes a larger part of the conversation than the actual words being shared.
- Ensure that your facial expression and body language matches the emotions you’re trying to exhibit.
- When it feels like a good situation putting an arm around someone or holding their hand can convey your intentions to comfort more than any words you could offer.
- Ensure you don’t stand over someone or too close. This can feel threatening or intimidating. This will shut down their desire to have an interaction. Instead try coming down or lower than their eye level to put them at ease.
- Avoid exhibiting strained facial expression or quick movements. Both convey a sense of distress, pain, or discomfort that a senior with dementia will not likely miss.
Phoenix Valley Memory Care Services
When you’ve got a loved one with dementia you want to know their needs are being met. SLS Communities offers Memory Care services that see to the needs of seniors with dementia in comfortable and safe surroundings. Our highly trained and compassionate staff sees to daily hygiene, prescription medications, meal preparation, and strives to keep seniors engaged with activities. For more information about our Memory Care services in the Phoenix Valley please call 480-348-0300 or click here.