Wednesday Workshop – 5 Tips for Effectively Communicating with Someone Who Has Dementia
Hello and welcome to Wednesday Workshop. Interacting with a loved one who has dementia can be a very sensitive and challenging experience. People who have dementia experience the world much more differently than those who do not have it. Many times a person with dementia can become confused if you try to speak with them about too many things at once or if their environment is too distracting. Additionally, sometimes you may have to diffuse particularly difficult situations if your loved one is making negative comments or seems extremely anxious or upset. While there may be very pleasant moments, sometimes your interactions with a loved one can be distressing.
Here we will provide you with some tips on how to handle these situations and how to communicate effectively.
- Try to remove negative stimuli from the environment that may trigger negative emotions in your loved one.
Many times, people who have dementia react strongly to certain triggers in their surroundings. If you know what these might be, like certain pictures or particular items, then consider removing them from your loved one’s living space. Other times you may not know what these stimuli are. Remember: You are doing the best you can and we will offer tips on responding to these negative situations below.
- Try to use simple expressions. Be easy and concise while you communicate.
Much like the above topic, your loved one may have a hard time following long, complex sentences and conversations. To avoid this, try to speak to them in a concise manner. Ask “yes” or “no” questions, since these questions require a binary answer. Be sure not to speak down to your loved one like a child. This tone is very frustrating and, think about it, you would not want others to talk to you in the same way. The important thing to keep in mind is speaking concisely assures more direct communication for both parties.
- Acknowledge Emotions
Many people who have dementia may experience things that do not seem to be based on reality. These experiences may be delusions or hallucinations. Such experiences can often be confusing and stressful and normally result in agitation, frustration, or fear. This situation demands effective communication. In this case, you have to acknowledge the experiences that your loved one is having even if their experiences do not correspond with reality. In other words, acknowledge that your loved one’s experiences are real even if the particular details of their experiences are not true. Do not try to correct your loved one as this will create more confusion. Acknowledging their experiences involves a recognition of their emotional state. Say something like, “I am sorry that you feel this way. How can I help you?” This tells your loved one that you take their feelings seriously and that you want to make things better.
- Reassure Your Loved One
After you have acknowledged how your loved one feels, you must then reassure them that you will take care of what is currently preoccupying them. This means assuring them that you are aware of what the issue is and that you are there to help. This strategy applies to all situations, especially those situations when your loved one may be experiencing delusions or hallucinations. For instance, if your loved one is afraid that their money was stolen from them, even though it was not, then you should still acknowledge their feelings and that you will do whatever you can to help. It is up to you how to respond. If this means telling a small lie like “I’ve talked to the authorities and they are taking care of it” or, if that approach makes you feel uncomfortable, you can say, “I will make sure that everything will be okay.” How you choose to respond will depend on your own moral stances and will require some tact. Ultimately, you want your loved one to be assured that you are watching out for them.
- Redirect Your Loved One
This strategy applies to those challenging circumstances where your loved one may be distressed and making negative comments. After you have acknowledged their feelings and reassured them that you are there for them, then you must try and redirect their thoughts to something less stressful. This can be anything, especially if it is something simple like “Would you like for me to get you a snack?” Any comment that can shift your loved one’s thought processes to something more positive than their current emotional state is the best way to proceed.
Communicating with a loved one who has dementia can be a sensitive situation.
These tips were offered to provide you some guidelines to handle these situations with care and compassion. Being a caregiver is not an easy job, but, fortunately, there are techniques to help make certain situations more manageable.
To learn more or to speak with us here at the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center, feel free to call us at (877) 760-9199 or email us below. Thanks for watching today’s Wednesday Workshop! We’ll see you next week!