How to Have Meaningful Conversations with Dementia Patients

Author: Brian Heckman

If you have a loved one with dementia, you probably already know how frustrating it can be to communicate sometimes. Limited understanding and cognitive decline can be very overwhelming for both the patient and the caregiver, but there are ways to make it easier. Here are some tips to consider…

Firstly, be determined to make the conversation the best it can possibly be. Going into it already frustrated or with negative energy will affect you as well as your loved one! Try to bear in mind that while you may feel like you are losing your loved one, they are still the person you’ve always loved. While the specific circumstances may make it tough to communicate, your positive attitude will be a game-changer!

Second, create a comfortable environment that feels safe. Remove any distractions and just make sure you’re in a quiet space without a lot of outside stimuli.

Get their Full Attention. Use light physical touch and affection and use their name. The more relaxed and pleasant your body language is, the more they will also relax and enjoy the conversation. If the patient is non-verbal, your demeanor is even more important!

Keep eye contact. Sit where you can see each other. This will help them feel safe and comfortable.

Keep the conversation light and easy! They may be unable to understand or process some topics, so if your loved one suffers from dementia, it’s a good idea to limit topics to easy things that don’t require a lot of thought. Remember to slow down, be calm, take a breath, and just enjoy as many meaningful chats as you can!

Speak clearly and slowly. You need to give them a chance to process what you’ve just said. This means that you need to slow down and give a pause between sentences.

Instead of pronouns, use names. Dementia makes it hard to remember who you are talking about. So, rather than saying pronouns such as “he” or “she,” use the name of the person you are talking about. Be sure to use your own name too.

Don’t load them with more than one topic. Try to avoid jumping to different topics or changing the subject without a clear introduction to the new topic. If they show signs of not understanding what you’ve said or who you’re talking about, try rephrasing rather than repeating things.

Finally, don’t forget the non-verbal communication such as a smile, a hug, wink of the eye, and anything that is reassuring to them. This will help them feel respected and safe.

For more information on communicating with dementia patients, please contact us!

Home Helpers of Canton is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, 24-hour care and live-in care, Alzheimer's & dementia care, Parkinson's care. post-operative home care as well as homemaker services in Akron, Alliance, Aurora, Brewster, Brimfield, Canton, East Canton, East Sparta, Hartville, Jackson, Kent, Louisville, Mantua, Massillon, Minerva, Mogadore, Navarre, North Canton, Randolph, Ravenna, Streetsboro, Suffield, Tallmadge, and Waynesburg, Ohio.

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