August 28, 2020

Tips on how to effectively communicate with a dementia sufferer

By James Fairhurst

Every individual living with dementia is affected differently by the disease. Symptoms will differ for each individual and their attitude and behaviours may change as their condition worsens.

However, many people suffering with dementia can face the similar challenge of communication which will leave individuals feeling frustrated, stressed and more confused. Communication is key to building and maintaining strong relationships and this is vital to ensure people with dementia feel safe.

Ways of communicating

It’s not just through talking that you can communicate, you can also communicate via body language tone of voice and facial expressions. When you communicate with an individual make sure you:

  • Limit distractions
  • Smile
  • Speak slowly, clearly and in short sentences
  • Give the individual time to answer
  • Avoid too many open-ended questions or offering too many choices
  • Listen carefully with empathy and understanding

Scenarios

What should I do if…

The person with dementia keeps asking for their mum or dad or asks to go home when they are at home.

This may be an indication that the person may be feeling insecure, as parent and home can mean safety and familiarity. If you think the person might be feeling insecure, talk about their interests and familiar things.

What should I do if…

The person with dementia keeps talking about needing to go to work when they are no longer working.

If the individual is talking about work then they may need to feel a sense of purpose. Encourage them to complete household tasks us cleaning or dusting, which will help them to feel useful and needed.

What should I do if…

The person with dementia is feeling sad or angry and cannot explain why.

If the individual is upset, it may be a sign that they are in pain or something is irritating them and they can’t communicate this to you. Check the temperature of the room to make sure they are comfortable. Also check for signs of bruising, redness and unusual swellings in case they have injured themselves.

What should I do if…

The person with dementia cannot find or use the right word for something.

People with dementia find it hard to express how they are feeling. If you ask a person with dementia how they are feeling it is important you give them plenty of time to answer. If they struggle to answer, use pictures to communicate. If the room is noisy then there may be too many distractions for them to answer, so make sure the room is quiet.

What should I do if…

The person with dementia becomes withdrawn and not responding

When you communicate with an individual with dementia it is vital you face the person, gain eye contact and talk slowly.

What should I do if…

The person living with dementia says, “what are you doing in my house?”

Individuals who have dementia lose recognition of familiar people, faces and environment.

It can be upsetting for a loved one if the individual does not recognise them, so try to understand the person’s reality and leave the room for a few minutes before re-entering calmly.

These tips may not work for all individuals, as dementia effects people differently. At CRG Homecare, we provide support to individuals with dementia living in their own home. Find out about our services and how we can support your loved one here: https://crghomecare.uk.com/our-services/

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