Tips to communicate with people living with dementia

Welcome to the latest edition of Senior Snippets: the monthly advisory column with the older members of our community in mind, brought to you by Paramjit Toor, Director of Home Instead in Wolverhampton, Wombourne and Kingswinford

September is World Alzheimer's Month and every year, 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.  

When we think about communicating, our first instinct is to speak, but there are times when communication consists of much more than just a verbal conversation. When communicating with someone with dementia, there are many things to consider, and remember that talking isn’t always the most effective method.

Here are some ideas to help with communication:

  • Acknowledge what the person has said. Even if they don't answer your question, express that you've heard them and encourage them to say more about their answer.
  • Use gestures, movement and facial expressions. Physical signs and body language can all convey meaning and help get messages across, especially when speaking becomes more difficult.
  • Use Humour. Laughing can help to bring you closer together, and may relieve the pressure.
  • Become an active listener. Listening is a very important aspect of engaging with someone with dementia. Look for non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language to try and understand what they are trying to tell you.
  • Let the person express their feelings. If the person is feeling sad, don’t try and persuade them away from that feeling. Showing you care by just listening is sometimes the best method of communicating.
  • Use physical contact to provide reassurance. Holding or patting the person's hand or putting your arm around them might be all that is needed to let them know you are there for them.
  • Use visual clues. Writing your messages down or using objects or pictures to help the person understand could help alleviate a breakdown in communication.

Communication difficulties can be frustrating and upsetting for people with dementia as well as their carers and loved ones. Active listening, non-verbal communication, visual props and laughter are just a few ways to help alleviate some of the tensions you may experience when engaging with those living with dementia.

If you would like to speak to someone at Home Instead, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We also welcome any suggestions for future topics from you. All you have to do is write to me at [email protected] or by post to 5a Upper Street, Tettenhall Village, Wolverhampton, WV6 8QF