Having someone near and dear to you suffer from an illness can be very sad and painful. This is especially true with memory loss illnesses, such as Dementia, or Alzheimer’s, as they slowly forget people, places, or events in their life.
Understandably, it can be hard to know how to communicate with someone that, while you still remember them well, they are losing their memory of you. Dementia is extremely frustrating and can make people angry, depressed, sad, and sometimes make them feel very isolated.
While it’s important to always consult with your loved one’s doctor, there are things that you can implement in your communication that will help you to be able to hold a conversation with them.
Five ways to communicate with a loved one suffering from dementia:
Don’t take it personally.
The most important thing is not to take things personally. You need to realize that outbursts or anger is part of a sad disease, and it not particularly directed at you, although it may feel that way at times.
Keep things familiar.
Routine is important. Try to ensure that things stay the same, and that means the physical surroundings as well as the daily and weekly routines. If changes have to be made, try implementing them slowly, over time and not all at once. That can be overwhelming and confusing to someone that is already feeling disoriented.
Avoid constant correction.
It can be tempting to want to correct inappropriate or rude behavior. Try to redirect instead of correct (unless the behavior is disrupting or hurting others). An example would be that if they are insisting that they are going to be robbed, don’t tell them that is not going to happen. Instead, tell them that you are concerned and ask what they are worried about, and try to find a solution, instead of dismissing their fears or concerns.
Use body language.
A great way to communicate is through body language. A hand placed on an arm, or leaning in to hear better and pay closer attention is a great way to let your loved one know that you see and care about them, without having to use words. Remember, not everyone that has Dementia appreciates being touched, so check to make sure that they are good with it before extending physical comfort.
Use bridge phrases.
Bridge phrases are shifting the conversation to a different topic. Think along the lines of, “The mail is late today-while we wait, do you want to go have some lunch?”. It’s a gentle way to move the conversation in a new direction, especially if you are stuck with someone asking repetitive questions.
The main thing to remember with Dementia is to focus on the “Why.” Try to find a reason for the tantrums, frustration, or bad mood. Since they can have trouble communicating, something so simple as the room being too cold can cause your grandmother to bang on the wall or smash her fists on the table. To resolve an issue, you have to find the root problem or cause of it.