Communicating with someone who has dementia
What can someone with dementia feel?
Imagine if you were to lose the ability to say the right word or understand what was being said, eg when on holiday in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. You may feel frustrated, angry and look for help, perhaps to someone to interpret for you. You might respond by not speaking at all and withdrawing into yourself of avoiding situations where you have to communicate with people.
Here are 12 Helpful Hints for communicating with someone living with dementia.
- Be calm and patient.
- Face the person, speak clearly and slowly.
- Make sure that you have their attention by gently touching their arm and saying their name.
- Use short, simple sentences and say exactly what you mean.
- Try to get one idea across at a time.
- Allow plenty of time for the person to take in what you say and try not to reply.
- Try not to confuse or embarrass the person by correcting them bluntly.
- Use questions which ask for a simple answer.
- Don’t ask questions which test their memory, e.g. ‘Who am I?’ or ‘What did you do yesterday?’.
- Talk about familiar people, places and ideas.
- Use the names of the people you are talking about instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’. It will remind the person of who you are talking about.
- Use facial expressions and hand gestures to make yourself understood.
A Person with Dementia May Also:
- Feel under pressure because they can’t cope as well as they used to.
- Feel that their independence and privacy are being take away.
- Think that they are being judged for making a mistake.
- Be frightened by too much noise, too many people or a change to their routine.
- May already have poor hearing and eyesight which can be made worse by their dementia.
Don’t forget – Actions speak louder than words!
A smile, touch or gesture can be just as important in getting the message across and showing that you care. Sometimes holding the person’s hand when you talk can be very reassuring.
The leaflet this post is based on was originally compiled by Nicky Thomson, Good Morning Project Ltd and the North Dementia Forum, 2009.