Effective Ways of Communicating with an Elderly Loved One with Dementia

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Communicating with an older loved one living with dementia may present a challenge, as the disease process alters the way the brain receives and interprets information. Along with memory loss, seniors with dementia may have difficulty with language comprehension. However, there are a few ways family members can achieve better communication with an elderly parent with dementia.

Be Respectful

Regardless of how your loved one behaves or speaks, remember he or she is an adult. Resist the urge to talk to your loved one as if he or she were a child. Don’t talk down to your loved one or use a demeaning tone. Avoid scolding, and always show respect.
Resist the urge to speak about your loved one as if he or she isn’t present.

Eliminate Distractions

If the TV is on or other people in the room are talking to each other, trying to communicate with a senior with dementia can be difficult. Your loved one might become confused, frustrated, and angry when trying to process who is speaking and what is being said.

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Use Body Language

Dementia may also affect visual acuity. Before beginning a conversation with your loved one, make sure he or she is aware someone is close by. Otherwise, he or she may become startled or confused. Make eye contact and smile. Call your loved one by name. Offer a gentle touch on a hand or shoulder. Give a reassuring hug. If your parent is seated, sit or bend down to his or her eye level.

Try Simpler Speech Techniques

Speak in a calm, soft voice. Use simple statements or questions, which are typically easier for seniors with dementia to understand. Be patient and allow time to respond. Avoid using common figures of speech or slang, as your loved one may not remember the meaning of the phrases. In later stages of dementia, abstract thinking is greatly diminished.

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Choose the Right Time

After spending time with your loved one, you’ll be able to determine the best times during the day to initiate communication. Often, seniors with dementia experience sundowning in the late afternoon. During this time, they become confused or agitated more easily because their brains are unable to process the light change that normally occurs as the day progresses. Thus, afternoons may not be the ideal time to have meaningful conversations.

Avoid Correction

Dementia commonly affects the timeline in the memories of seniors with dementia. As such, they might believe they’re in another place and time. They may express the need to care for their young children or speak of a deceased loved one as if he or she is alive. Instead of correcting your parent or trying to refresh his or her memory, be sympathetic to your loved one’s perspective. Have a conversation based on where your loved one is mentally.

If you’re looking for reliable dementia care, Des Moines Home Care Assistance offers high-quality at-home care for seniors who are managing the challenges of cognitive decline. We offer a revolutionary program called the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), which uses mentally stimulating activities to boost cognitive health in the elderly. CTM has proven to help seniors with dementia regain a sense of pride and accomplishment and learn how to engage with others in an enjoyable way. If you need professional home care for your loved one, our Care Managers are just a phone call away. Reach out to Home Care Assistance today at (515) 264-2438.

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