Communicating with people with dementia can seem hard, but it doesn’t have t be! Let these person-centered tips be your guide.
- Always speak to the person as an adult. Don’t speak or talk down to your care partner as though they are a child. People with dementia are adults that have lived full, rich lives. But do use concrete, clear language, and use words that are familiar. Be sure to speak slowly and clearly, using a relaxed tone of voice, and maintain eye contact.
- Always include the person in the conversation. Use led-in information and opinion-seeking questions (“How is your daughter, Mary, the piano player”, “Did you enjoy your breakfast?”). Use nouns, not pronouns, and don’t talk as though your care partner is not there.
- Speak positively. Avoid using “don’ts” or commands. Avoid criticizing, correcting or arguing. Compliment your care partner often.
- Break tasks and instructions into clear, simple steps. Avoid complicating tasks by presenting clear and simple steps to follow. Don’t provide too many choices (this can become overwhelming), and don’t give instructions or information too far in advance.
- Eliminate environmental distractions. Simple changes to the environment can improve everyday functioning and enhance communication. Light, sound, room, and walkways should be assessed for environmental barriers.
- Allow enough time for a response. Have conversations with your care partner. Be patient in waiting for their response. Talk with them, not to them. Sometimes they won’t respond. No problem, simply move on to a different subject.
- Use and encourage non-verbal communication. You can communicate without words using facial expressions, gestures and touching.
- Be patient, flexible, and understanding. Remember that a person with dementia is trying to make sense of a world that seems to have gone seriously off-track. Even simple, ordinary daily tasks have become challenging.
- Take care of yourself! This is essential. As a caregiver, you are probably used to putting other’ s needs ahead of your own. But you must take time to refuel so you are not running on empty. Do something just for you.