Dementia and Communication

As part of The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Action Week, we’ll be bringing you a series of blog posts relating to dementia, offering advice, tips and information for those people who are living with, or affected by dementia.

Dementia is a progressive disease – this means that it will get worse as time goes on, however to what extent will depend on the individual.   

There may come a time when the ability to communicate diminishes.  This can be difficult, both for the person living with dementia and their family members and carers.  There are ways that you can effectively communication with a person who has dementia and ways that you can encourage communication, keeping distress and confusion to a minimum.

Why can communication be affected?

As dementia progresses, it can begin to affect more parts of the brain, leading to an increase in symptoms.  Depending on the person and type of dementia, this can happen in any order.   Memory loss is the most common symptom that we associate with dementia, and is perhaps one of the earliest warning signs but other symptoms could be a change in behaviour, reduced attention span, difficulties in judgement and diminishing language ability.

Your loved one may encounter just a few or all of the above symptoms.  It’s important to realise that any changes in behaviour, personality or communication towards you are not personal – it is the disease that is causing the change.   Whilst you can’t stop these symptoms from happening there are techniques you may like to use that can make the situation a little easier to deal with.

What you can do to communicate more effectively

Use simple. straightforward language

Don’t use overcomplicated language when talking to your loved one and avoid sarcasm or irony as this may be misconstrued.    Try to keep to the point and talk about one thing at a time.  If you are asking questions, try to use closed questions with minimal choices.  For example instead of asking what they would like to eat, instead ask “Would you like a bowl of cereak or a piece of toast?”  Too many choices can be confusing so support them with their decision by keeping it simple.

Stay calm and collected

There are times when your loved one may become frustrated and upset at their inability to communicate with you.  It can be frustrating for you too, but try not too overreact.  If they see that you are calm, this will have a calming affect on them too.

Remember your body language

As vocal abilities become more difficult, other ways to communicate can be effective too.  If your loved one does not fully understand what you are saying, they will be able to understand the context from your body language and facial expression.  They will recognise a smile or a comforting hand gesture. 

Reminiscence

Sights and sounds can be a great tool for communication.  Photographs or familiar objects from the home can be a great way to trigger memories that may help with communication.  Music too can also be beneficial – hearing a familiar song can trigger emotional reactions and memories.  Something as simple as a radio jingle at the same time each morning can remind your loved one that it is time to eat breakfast. 

Why not become a Dementia Friend?

The Dementia Friends initiative is led by the Alzheimer’s Society to encourage everyone to create a more dementia-friendly society.  Part of the information session is all about communication, where you can find out practical ways you can help to support a loved one or someone you care who is living with dementia.

Did you know that Home Instead Wrexham & Flintshire run free Dementia Friends Information Sessions which are open to everyone.  All staff at Home Instead are offered a session as part of their induction, however anyone can participate in the sessions, whether you have a family member or friend with dementia, you want to make a difference in your local community or you simply want to find out more information about dementia.

Information sessions are open to local businesses, community groups and individuals.  For more information and to book on a future session, please contact Heather for more information on [email protected]

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