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Learning to communicate with a loved one with dementia

Uploaded On: 08 Jul 2021

Dementia is a condition characterised by a decline in cognitive function, that goes beyond what is expected with normal ageing. Forgetfulness, struggling to follow conversations or find the right words, experiencing confusion, and having difficulty concentrating are common symptoms of dementia in your loved one. For this reason, communication can feel like a particularly frustrating task, especially given how important it is in the caregiving process.

Fortunately, whilst communication isn’t easy, it can be better managed using the right techniques. In this blog, we share seven tips to help you shape healthier interactions with your loved one with dementia:

1. Prepare for the conversation

Limit distractions by creating a proper physical setting to start the conversation. Bring your loved one to a place that has proper lighting, is quiet, and doesn’t have a lot of visual stimuli. For example, if there are other people walking around the living room, you might take your loved one to the bedroom instead. Turn off the radio or television, turn on the lights. Doing so will help your loved one to concentrate on the conversation better.

Also, enter the conversation with the right frame of mind – you can do so by planning sufficient time to spend with your loved one so that conversations are not rushed or forced to move quickly.

2. Be patient

A person with dementia often has trouble recalling certain words or is unable to reply coherently. Give your loved one ample time to find the words they are looking for, or gently prompt them with an appropriate word. It’s also okay to offer to come back to it later.

3. Avoid expressing your frustration

Your feelings of frustration are valid, but showing this frustration will only cause stress to your loved one, and will not help to move the conversation along. If you feel yourself getting worked up, take a short break before returning to the conversation.

4. Ask closed-ended questions

Frame closed instead of open-ended questions to encourage a response. For example, you can ask, “Have you eaten yet?” instead of “What did you eat for lunch?” Or “Would you like some tea?” instead of “What would you like to drink?” These questions encourage a simple yes or no response, making it easier for your loved one to answer and communicate with you.

5. Keep your questions or statements short and simple

A person with dementia will find it difficult to follow complex statements, so you can find ways of rephrasing what you want to say more simply, or in shorter sentences. Ask your questions one at a time, waiting for your loved one to answer each question before moving to the next one.

6. Be specific

Instead of using pronouns like ‘that’, ‘there’, ‘it’, use specific nouns to encourage greater clarity. Instead of instructing your loved one to “sit here”, tell them to “sit on the sofa”. Or, ask them to “wait on the bed” instead of “wait there”.

7. Use body language to communicate

You can better maintain your loved one’s attention if you use gestures, touch their hand, keep eye contact, smile, or use other small body languages. Saying your loved one’s name also helps to catch and keep their attention for a longer time.

All in all

Communication is key, especially in caring for a dementia patient. Positive communications can help your loved ones feel supported, as well as maintaining their dignity and self-esteem.

Caring for a loved one with dementia is highly demanding, which is why you can also consider entrusting your loved one into the hands of professional caregivers at elderly nursing homes in Singapore.

Day care programs at nursing homes allow you to have your loved one cared for in the day, giving you time to rest or focus on other activities like work. Respite care offers short-term care for your loved one in the nursing home, enabling you to take a break for a few weeks at a time. Finally, long-term care provides care for an indefinite period, and is suitable for dementia patients who are in middle to late stages of dementia or for families who require full-time support to give their loved one the care they deserve.

Lastly, it’s best to consider a nursing home that is specialised in dementia care so that your elderly loved one will receive the best quality of care to live well!

At Orange Valley nursing home in Singapore, our team of passionate caregivers are specialised in communicating with and taking care of elderly who have dementia. Find out more about our dementia care program, call at 6499 4699 or email us at enquiry@orangevalley.sg today.

References:

https://www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/dementia-communication

https://www.caregiver.org/resource/caregivers-guide-understanding-dementia-behaviors/

https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/daily-care/communications