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Tips for communicating with people living with dementia

Tips for communicating with people living with dementia

Welcome to the latest edition of Senior Snippets: the advisory column with the older members of our community in mind, brought to you by Guy Kirk, Director of Home Instead Senior Care in South East Northumberland.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. In this edition, we will be sharing some tips and ideas about how to communicate with people living with dementia. 

There is a lot more to communication than a verbal conversation. When communicating with people, in particular, those with dementia, there are many other aspects of communication to bear in mind. Often, when speaking to someone with dementia, using these other techniques allow you to be better understood, and make it a more interesting conversation for both parties.

These are some of our tips for communication:

  • Acknowledge what is being said. People with dementia may not always answer your question, so it is helpful to show you are listening, and encourage them to expand on what they’ve said.
  • Use gestures, facial expressions and movement. These convey meaning well and help get messages across, especially when speaking becomes more difficult.
  • Use humour. Humour can build a stronger relationship, and laughing together can put people at ease.
  • Be an active listener. When speaking to those with dementia, attentively listening is key. As well as listening, focussing on facial expressions and non-verbal clues can help you understand what they are trying to tell you.
  • Let the person express their feelings. If a person feels down, often the best thing you can do to show you are there for them is listen. Trying to push them away from that feeling can be more upsetting.
  • Use physical contact to reassure the person. People with dementia can often feel isolated; letting them know you care by holding the person's hand or putting your arm around them.
  • Use visual aids. Putting your messages in writing or using objects or pictures can help increase understanding and prevent a communication breakdown.

People with dementia as well as their carers and loved ones can be left feeling upset and agitated due to challenges with communication. Body language, humour, and visual aids are some of the ways to try and combat some of the issues which may arise when communicating with those living with dementia.

To make a suggestion for a future topic, please write to me at info.blyth@homeinstead.co.uk or by post to Home Instead South East Northumberland, Blyth Workspace, Unit T04, Commissioners Quay, Quay Road, Blyth, NE24 3AF. Alternatively, you can also call us on 01670 338542.

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