How To Talk To Someone With Dementia
Communication can become a challenge with someone who has Alzheimer's Disease or another form of dementia. Each person will react differently, and individual reactions can change from day to day, or even from hour to hour. The person with dementia is no longer able to be flexible, which means that we have to be the ones to make any necessary accommodations.
Here are a few simple tips that will help when trying to communicate with someone who may be confused and forgetful:
1. Your body language and your tone of voice communicate just as much as your words. Try to remain relaxed and speak slowly and calmly, using simple words and sentences.
2. Always identify yourself, even if you are certain that the person you are speaking with should know who you are. The person with dementia may be unable to retrieve your name. You will avoid embarrassing him or her if you give a verbal clue by saying, "Hi, it's Marcia."
3. Try to avoid questions. "What did you have for lunch?" can backfire if the person you are talking with doesn't remember having had lunch. If you have to ask a question, choose to phrase it so the person with dementia can answer "Yes," or "No." Avoid asking, "Don't you remember?" Don't insist on getting an answer to any question, as that may cause the person with dementia to become frustrated and upset.
4. Remember that memories are not always accurate. If the person you are talking with says something that you know is incorrect, avoid correcting the facts. Use statements, incorrect or otherwise, to get the conversation flowing: "Oh, your mother is coming to visit? I bet she was a great cook. Tell me about her."
5. Keep it short. If the person with dementia lives with you, it will be natural to have short spurts of communication throughout the day. If you are visiting, a successful visit can become uncomfortable for both you and the person with dementia if it goes on too long. Sometimes 15 to 20 minutes is more than enough. Plan to make another short visit and gently take your leave if you sense that the person you are visiting is growing tired, anxious or more confused.