6 Effective Ways to Interact with Someone Suffering from Dementia

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | August 2nd, 2017

There’s nothing quite more frustrating than trying to communicate with someone who suffers from dementia. This type of brain disorder, which triggers a loss of brain function, is generally progressive and leads to severe communication issues, especially during the last stages. If you’re a caretaker of someone with dementia, it’s easy to become anxious and feel helpless when trying to interact. But take heart. It can be easier when you use the right communication tools. Here are six basic ways you can learn to interact with people who live with dementia, along with a few considerations and warnings.

How Dementia Affects Communication

Before trying to interact with a dementia patient, you need to understand how the disease affects communication. As dementia progresses, it becomes significantly harder for a person to converse. Although the disease’s progression varies, according to an individual patient, there are some common speech behaviors. One of the main ones is struggling to find the right words. Another typical behavior is repeating stories. Furthermore, many dementia patients speak in tangents.

Use Photo Albums or Other Props

One of the best ways to relate to a loved one with dementia is by using reminiscence tools, such as a photo album. Consider how looking at old photos can be an excellent icebreaker in talking about the past. People who struggle with memory loss usually suffer from short-term memory. In other words, many of them are still able to share details, regarding episodes in their youth, decades ago, although they can’t tell you what they had for breakfast. When you take a trip with them down memory lane, you’re opening the door for sharing positive memories, so they’re more likely to interact with you.

Listen to Music Together

Find out their favorite music and songs. Then, plug in a portable CD player, so you can listen to music together. This is a huge way to connect with your loved one because music, along with rhythmic speech, remains stored in parts of the brain that stay active even during the late phases of dementia. You could spend as long as half-an-hour together, not only listening and tapping to music but also singing together.

Use Cue Cards

Cue cards, also known as communication cards, are visual prompts or tools that help with communication. They’re particularly needed for people in the final stages of dementia who can no longer communicate verbally. These cards generally contain black and white pictures and may or may not include words. By pointing to a picture, people can communicate what they need, such as indicating they need to eat, use the toilet, brush their hair and other needs.

Use Touch

Sometimes, touch is the only way to communicate. In fact, touch can even be more powerful than words. A gesture as simple as holding someone’s hand can send the message that you can be trusted, making them feel safer. Another nonverbal way to convey closeness is by patting a person on the shoulder or stroking their hair.

Use Good Eye Contact

Positive nonverbal cues are just as important as conversation. By smiling and maintaining eye contact, a loved one with dementia feels more comfortable, loved and understood. As dementia advances, nonverbal cues are usually the only way to interact.

Acknowledge What They Tell You

If your loved one doesn’t answer a question or says something that is out of context or doesn’t make sense, you should still acknowledge whatever they’ve said. This lets them know you have heard them, which can make them want to elaborate on what they’ve told you.

Considerations and Warnings 

  • Consider that your loved one will have ups and downs, meaning there will be good days as well as bad days.
  • Use short sentences and speak distinctly.
  • Never argue or force an issue with someone because this can result in aggressive behavior.
  • Don’t take it personally if your loved one is accusatory as this is a common behavior in dementia patients.
  • Don’t feel like you have to keep talking. Often, dementia patients just enjoy sitting silently with people who visit them.
  • Always identify yourself. Rather than saying, “Hello, it’s me,” say, “Hi, Mom, it’s me, Vanessa, your oldest daughter.” Keep in mind how dementia patients have trouble even remembering the names of their closest relatives, especially when they’re in the advanced stages.
  • Also, call people by their names when conversing, instead of referring to them as “he” and “she”.
  • Find a place to visit where there aren’t distractions, such as a loud radio or TV, because this can make it easier for your loved one to focus on your conversation. 

Are you a caretaker for someone with dementia? Call the professional caregivers at ActiveCare Home Care. Our home care agency, based in Park Ridge, which is a northwest suburb of Chicago, can give your loved one the 24-hour care he or she needs. Please contact us and find out more about our wide range of in-home services for homebound people.






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