Dementia is a challenging and devastating journey, not just for those who suffer from it but also for loved ones and caregivers. As the memories start to fade and communication gets difficult, you can’t help but feel pain seeing someone you love slowly deteriorate.
Luckily, there are ways to ensure you can continue communicating with your loved ones while they suffer from dementia. Today, we’ll discuss some essential tips you should follow, which will help you maintain your bond with your loved one.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia isn’t a specific illness or disease, but rather an overall term to describe a range of medical conditions that impair a person’s cognitive ability. Alzheimer’s is one example of dementia.
Neurons and nerve cells in the brain stop working, along with other brain cells. As a result, people with dementia experience loss of memory, a decline in thinking skills, and a severe shift in feelings and behavior.
How Dementia Affects Communication
Some of the effects of dementia are a decline in memory, focus, language skills, visual perception, problem-solving skills, and overall cognition. When so many vital factors of communication are under attack, there are bound to be issues.
People with dementia will forget names and places, which causes them to withdraw into themselves because they don’t want to risk embarrassment. As the symptoms worsen, sudden outbursts of anger due to not understanding or remembering something are also possible.
Tips For Caregivers
Considering the potential for stressful situations when it comes to caring for a person with dementia, we thought it would be great to discuss some tips to ensure that you can continue communicating effectively.
P.A.C.C. (Patient, Empathetic, Calm, And Clear)
The severity of dementia can vary from patient to patient, but what you as a caregiver must always remember is that you will need to be patient.
Empathy goes a long way as well, as you need to understand what the person living with dementia is going through, to communicate with them effectively.
Next, always be calm. A senior who has dementia can be sensitive to the emotions of the person they are communicating with, so always exuding calm energy will ensure the overall situation always remains calm.
Finally, be clear and use simple sentences, making it easier for someone living with dementia to understand what is being said.
Be Natural And Use Gestures
When you’re speaking with someone with dementia, you don’t need to sound cheerful all the time or always look happy. Just be yourself and act naturally. Be friendly, but not overly so, and always speak calmly.
It also helps to use subtle hand gestures and movements when asking or telling someone with dementia to do something. For example, if you’re asking whether they want to eat, point to the fridge or pantry.
It’s Not Just What You Say, But Also What You Do
When communicating with someone with dementia, actions have just as much of an impact as what you say. Even subtle visual cues can help make your communication a lot better.
Maintaining eye contact and a subtle smile (without overdoing it and being natural) are very helpful. If your parent or loved one has dementia, holding their hand while talking to them is also a great way to keep them calm and make them feel safe.
Sitting quietly and just being in the moment is also a great way to keep that bond with your loved one strong.
Use Names, Not Relations
You don’t need to necessarily keep reminding someone with dementia of who you are. Rather than saying “Hi, it’s me, Devin, your son”, you could just say “Hey, it’s me, Devin”.
Not only is it better as a clearer and simpler sentence, as we mentioned above, but experts say that identifying yourself and others by name is a lot more helpful. It also helps if you refer to an individual with dementia by their preferred name, rather than calling them by their relationship with you (Mom, Dad, Grandpa, etc.).
This is because people with dementia could, in their brain and mind, be present in a moment long ago from the past, having forgotten all about the present, even if temporarily. Reminding someone like that of significant relationships they have completely forgotten and the realization of years or decades passing by can be overwhelming.
One Thing At A Time
Dementia has a major impact on problem-solving and thinking ability, so having someone with dementia multitask, or have them engaged in multiple conversations at the same time can be very stressful.
Such a situation is the exact opposite of calm and clear, which is what you should always be aiming for when communicating with someone with dementia.
Don’t ask too many questions and if you do, make them less quiz-like and keep them observational and open-ended. Avoid any questions that could be overwhelming or cause them to think too much. Also, present limited options rather than asking them to consider or suggest anything themselves.
Don’t Rush Or Push A Conversation…Ever!
If you’ve said something to someone with dementia, expect silence more than you would a response. Give them some time to process what you’ve just said and let them respond in their own time.
It’s also best not to interrupt if they’re looking for a word or name they’ve forgotten. Give them time to remember, as experts say that jumping in and reminding them can derail their thought process and do more harm than good.
It’s Not Always Rainbows And Sunshine
As a caretaker, you need to remember that some days will be better than others, and some days might seem like the end of the world.
Just always remember that tomorrow is another day, and with it, there’s a chance that your loved one will have a good day rather than a bad one. Live for those good days and look forward to them, but don’t be disappointed with the bad ones.
The journey of dementia is a difficult one, but if at the end you come out having maintained your bond with your loved one and making sure you’re always able to communicate, no matter how basically, then it’s a win.
Use Assistive Devices
Many assistive devices can help curtail the side effects of loved ones who live with dementia. Northwood Medical Supplies, for example, offer different types of safety devices such as automatic fall detection, automatic pill dispensers, and basic alarms that are helpful for both seniors and their caregivers.
To learn more about how to communicate better when caring for someone with dementia or how assistive devices can help safeguard against threats such as falls and kitchen fires give us a call at +1 (902) 492-3346 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!