How to communicate with someone who has dementia.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a term used to describe the symptoms of several illness that affect the brain. Dementia causes an ongoing decline in cognitive functioning. It affects the way a person thinks, remembers, communicates, and behaves.

As dementia progresses, someone with dementia may lose the ability to communicate. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of dementia, not only for the person living with dementia, but also for their families and friends.

Sometimes, when others come face-to-face with a person living with dementia, they feel awkward and don’t know what to say. They are worried they may say the wrong thing and find it easier to avoid that person altogether. Unfortunately, for the person living with dementia, this causes feelings of social isolation and loneliness.

Everyone deserves to feel socially included. Here are a few tips when communicating with someone with dementia.

5 Tips when communicating with someone living with dementia

  1. Surroundings are important, they can either stimulate or hinder conversion. Make sure you’re in a good place to communicate. Good lighting allows the other person to see you and your facial expressions clearly. Noisy distractions such as the TV or radio should be turned down or turned off.
  1. Use body language. Hand gestures, facial expressions, pointing or demonstrating can help. Make sure your body language matches what you are saying. Sudden movements or tense facial expressions may cause upset and make communication more difficult.
  1. Physical contact such as a gentle hand on the lap, or hand holding is a good way to keep the other person engaged. It shows that you care. There are also physical benefits to touch, such as lowering blood pressure, decreasing pain, and improving mood.
  1. When you talk, remain calm and talk in a gentle tone. Focus on one point at a time and keep sentences short to avoid confusion. Make the conversation flow by not asking question after question. This may feel like an interrogation rather than a pleasant discussion.
  1. Most importantly – listen. Give the person plenty of time to respond and speak. Listen carefully to what they are saying. Be supportive and encouraging. However, do not dismiss the person’s worries. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen and be there for them.
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