Mondayâs article (âTwo Early Signs of Dementia You Wonât Believeâ) got me thinking a little bit about my own personal experience with dementia. As Iâve come to know through an experience with a family member, talking to someone with dementia can pose a number of challenges, but one key area of concern is dementia and communication.
However, there are key ways that you can effectively communicate with someone who has a cognitive disorder. To help you with this, Iâd like to share a few things I learned while my grandmother was ill with the disease.
Donât Argue with Someone with Dementia
About 12 years ago, I flew across the country to visit my grandmother. It had been about a year since Iâd last seen her, but this time I wasnât visiting her at her apartmentâI was visiting her at a long-term care facility. She had been diagnosed with dementia and her condition was rapidly declining. This is when I started to learn that there were challenges associated with how to talk to someone with dementia.
One morning, I told her that my wife and I were going to buy some lunch and weâd bring it back to eat. She said not to worry about it, that she had plans with friends in the facility and that we should come back the next day instead. About three hours later my phone rang and it was my grandma, wondering where we were.
We went back to the home to visit her and everything was okay. Instead of correcting her or arguing about what was said, I figured it would be smart to make her more comfortable and diffuse the situation. Arguing with someone who has dementia is not beneficial to anyone; it will just make the situation more stressful.
Go with the Flow
When youâre talking to someone with dementia, you have to abandon your ego and the need to be right. If they want to call a relative thatâs been dead for a decade, pull your phone out and dial your own home phone or cell number and leave a message. When dealing with a person with dementia, you want to make sure youâre always working to keep their dignity up.
Distract Your Loved One
Redirecting them is another tactic that can be helpful. If you donât want to make the phone call or if they ask you to call again, say something that relates to that person. Something like, âAunt Margaret loves puzzles, would you like to do a puzzle or go for a walk?â This might lead their mind away from the call and provide a useful activity to keep them occupied.
Donât Call Attention to Memory Problems
Using the word ârememberâ can be a bit of a problem when talking to someone with dementia. It can make them feel embarrassed and uneasy, which can lead to depressive symptoms or feelings of isolation. Try to be conscious of this.
Make Decisions Simpler for Your Loved One
Finally, I learned that itâs best to stick to yes/no or this/that questions. When trying to get them to do an activity, always provide two options, like âDo you want to take a walk, or do you want to do a puzzle?â Questions that donât require long answers are also helpful because it reinforces their control, decision-making ability, and confidence.
Dementia & Communication
Communicating with people who have dementia can be a challenge and even frustrating, especially if itâs been a person youâve known for a long time. Accepting their condition and doing the best you can to make it as easy as possible on them is extremely important.
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Source for Todayâs Article:
Henrique, R., “How to Communicate With Someone Who Has Dementia,” Globe and Mail, September 22, 2015; http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health-advisor/how-to-communicate-with-someone-who-has-dementia/article26478669/.