Communication Strategies for Dementia
It can sometimes be difficult to have a meaningful connection with someone that has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and this is especially challenging for families that have a loving history together - mothers and daughters, etc.
Understanding how to break through gives us a chance to connect, even if it’s just for moment.
We do not consider ourselves experts at Team Senior, but we are in the trenches with families everyday – helping, guiding, working with professionals. From our experience, this is what we would suggest:
You will have some good days and some bad days. Some days she may remember your names and want to hug you, followed by alienation the next. Hold on to those good days and try to have faith that they will happen again.
Redirect someone that needs something that you obviously cannot provide. It’s OK to agree that their mother will be home to fix dinner (even if their mother is hypothetical and obviously deceased). Just say, “OK” and then direct them to something interesting.
Be patient. It sometimes takes a lot of time for someone with dementia to process information, especially when you consider how quickly they can forget what you may have just shared.
Speak slowly. Be clear and calm, and talk about one thing at a time. Refrain from ever using baby talk, and avoid distractions. Use a warm, natural voice that sets a "safe, welcoming, non-confrontational" tone.
Recognize that they are probably never going to "get better." It is almost inevitable that dementia patients progressively get worse with time.
Consider the order that they have learned things when thinking about what they have forgotten. It is almost always true that dementia patients forget things in the reverse order of how/when they learned them. For example, they will forget their children before they forget their parents (which is why, for example, so many dementia residents ask for their parents as the disease progresses).
If you are struggling with a parent, spouse or grandparent with dementia or Alzheimer’s, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are in touch with dozens of incredible resources in Southern Oregon, and we know them personally. Please let us help you in any way that we can. We know how challenging this path can be.
If you want to reach out, you can call us at (541) 295-8230 or online at teamsenior.org.