"Use humour when you can to laugh with them, not at them"

Tips for communicating with a person with Dementia

Communicating with a person with dementia can be incredibly stressful for both parties. It is important to be patient and adapt how you communicate.

Dementia can cause confusion and mood swings, as well as potentially changing a person’s personality and behaviour. Below are some tips for healthy communication with those with Dementia.

Set positive interactions

Attitude and body language convey your feelings and emotions toward the topic. You can set a positive mood by speaking to your loved one in a happy and pleasant manner. Use your facial expressions, tone of voice and physical touch to help convey a positive message and encourage affectionate interaction.

Ask simple questions

If you have to ask questions, try asking one at a time that require simple yes or no answers. Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving lots of choices. Ask questions such as “Do you want to wear the green or blue shoes today?” and use prompts and cues to help clarify your question.

Get their attention

Try to limit potential distractions such as TV or radio. If you must, move to a quieter space. Before speaking make sure you get their attention: address them by name to begin. If they are particularly forgetful and could be disturbed by your presence, introduce yourself by name and relation to them. If they’re seated, perhaps sit at the same level close to them to maintain their attention.

Have a sense of humour

Use humour when you can to laugh with them, not at them. A lot of Dementia patients maintain their social skills and really enjoy laughing along with you. This can also be a great way to improve mood or cheer them up if they’re having a mood swing or just a bad day.

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care home worker with client

Listen intently

Be patient when waiting for answers or responses. If they are struggling for an answer, you can suggest words to help them come to a conclusion. Watch their body language for non-verbal cues and try to listen for any subtext in what they are saying.

Speak clearly

Use simple words and sentences, speak slowly, distinctly and in a warm tone. Try to refrain from raising your voice and instead try to maintain a lower pitch. If your loved one is struggling to answer, repeat the same thing again using the same wording. If after this they are still struggling to respond, re-word your question and see if this helps. Additionally, when referring to people, try to use their names rather than pronouns.

Break down activities

Breaking down big tasks into smaller activities can make tasks far more manageable. You can encourage them to do as much as they can and offer prompts when they forget. If they’re feeling done or overwhelmed, you can take over the additional steps.

Distract and redirect

If your loved one becomes upset or agitated, you can try changing the subject or the environment to redirect their mood. It is important to engage with them and understand how they’re feeling, and make sure they know you understand. For example, “I can see you’re upset, I’m sorry you feel that way. Shall we go for a walk?”

Be affectionate and reassuring

People with Dementia ae often battling intense feelings of confusion, anxiety, and frustration. Sometimes they can even recall things that never actually happened. When this happens remain pleasant and just gently respond to the feelings they are depicting, rather than the story they’re saying happened. You can try physical touch and verbal cues to respond to their feelings and make them feel heard.

Remember before

Remembering the past can be a relaxing and affirming activity. Many people with Dementia struggle to remember the short term but can recall long term events. If this is the case, focus on those events and ask them to recall them for you. This might be pleasing for them and help give them some normality recalling something pleasant they can remember from their life.

image with old and young person hands