When a loved one or patient is suffering from dementia, maintaining communication can be one of the toughest challenges for a caregiver or family member. The patient’s limited understanding, environmental confusion, and verbal skills can lead to non-response—or increasing frustration for both carer and patient.
How can you have successful conversations with a loved one or patient suffering from dementia? Take the right steps to keep the conversation comfortable, easy to follow, and
First things first: prepare yourself to make the best of the conversation.
Prepare yourself for the conversation by getting into a patient, calm, and respectful mindset. Remember, while your patient may have limited cognitive functioning now—they are still the person you, or their family, has loved and admired. Conversation can be easier or harder depending on patient’s circumstances, but your attitude can ensure that every interaction is as meaningful and pleasant as possible.
Second: make the environment as comfortable as possible.
- Remove Distractions—choose a quiet, well-lit area to help your patient focus comfortably on the conversation.
- Get their Full Attention—begin your conversation by saying their name, or even touching them lightly on the shoulder or arm.
- Relax Your Body Language—non-verbal patients may rely heavily on body language, so make sure you give a relaxed, positive impression
- Maintain Eye Contact—keep their focus on you by sitting next to or across from them and maintaining calm, steady eye contact.
Thirdly: keep the conversation clear and easy to understand.
Dementia patients may struggle with focus or comprehension, so make sure your conversations are as simple and clear as possible. That may mean you need to slow your normal speed or limit conversation topics, but it’ll be worthwhile when you can get meaningful responses.
Speak Calmly, Clearly, and Slowly—give time for the patient to process each sentence before moving to the next.
Use Names instead of Pronouns—refer to people mentioned by their names instead of “he” or “she” to help the patient keep track of the conversation.
Stick to One Topic at a Time—avoid switching topics suddenly or bringing up new ones without clear introductions.
Rephrase, Don’t Repeat—if the patient doesn’t understand a question or statement, rephrase it as simply as possible rather than repeating it.
And of course, focus on non-verbal communication, too. A friendly smile and reassuring eye-contact, as well as appropriate physical touch, goes a long way to help your patient feel comfortable enough to respond. If the patient does forget or make a mistake, correct them gently or let their mistake slide to keep them feeling positive, included, and respected.
Helping your loved one navigate dementia can be a challenge. But with the right care, it can be an opportunity to treat your loved one with compassion and respect. Learn more about finding the right caregivers by reaching out to Community Home Health Care at 845.425.6555. We’re always happy to answer any questions and connect you with the right care for your family.