Communicating more Effectively with Someone Living with Dementia

Is it estimated that there are around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and 1 in 6 people aged 80 or over have dementia, so there is a good chance that you know someone with dementia, or you are caring for someone with dementia yourself.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be unpredictable, and can affect people differently and progress at different rates. This can offer up a variety of challenging behaviours, and no matter if you are caring for a loved one or you are a professional CAREGiver, dealing with this behaviour can be difficult, frustrating, and upsetting. On top of that, you need to remember that it can also be extremely confusing and upsetting for the person who is living with the disease.

Communication plays an essential role in managing any difficult behaviours, and it is something that you should pay proper care and attention to if you are caring for a loved one who is living with a form of dementia. Communication should be the foundation of a friendly and trusting relationship with the person you care for, and you should always remember that talking and conversations are not the only way to communicate, and indeed, might sometimes be the least effective way to do so.

We have put together a number of tips that could help you to facilitate better communication, and help you and the person you care for to better understand one another.

• Make frequent use of gestures, facial expressions, and movement. Body language and physical movement can be just as important at conveying meaning as speech, and can help to get a message across when speech or hearing becomes impaired.

• Always acknowledge what the person has said. It may be that the person you are caring for does not answer you, but it is important to express that you have understood what they have said, and encouraging them to say more if they can.

• Become an active listener. Being a good listener is something everyone should strive to be, but it is even more important when engaging with someone with dementia. You need to ‘listen’ to what their facial expressions and body language is telling you, as well as what they are saying.

• Don’t forget to laugh. Humour and laughter is a universal language, and sharing a joke together can help to bring you closer and relieve the tension or pressure in certain situations.

• Use visual communication methods. If communication is becoming difficult, you could try writing messages down or using pictures/photos to convey your meaning. This could make your meaning all the more clearer, and even help you to realise that you might not have been communicating as clearly as you should have.

• Try using physical contact to provide reassurance. If a loved one is distressed in any way, verbal communication might not have an effect, but if you simply reach out to hold their hand or put your arm around them, they can feel comforted and reassured that you are there for them.

• Encourage them to express their feelings. Talking about what you are feeling can be helpful regardless of who you are, so if your loved one is feeling sad or frustrated, don’t attempt to wave their feelings away as insignificant. Encourage them to express what they are feeling, and listen to them.

Alzheimer’s and other dementias can bring up a number of difficulties, but making a commitment to good communication can often be half the battle. The tips and methods that we have mentioned are just some of the ways in which difficulties or tensions can be alleviated. However, if you having a difficult or stressful time then it might be worth looking at professional Alzheimer’s and dementia care at home.

If you would like to get in touch with Home Instead Birmingham about senior care at home, or becoming one of our CAREGivers, then get in touch on 01214 565559.

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