Dementia – Caregiver’s guide to Communication and Language

Providing care for people with Dementia can be challenging. Dementia not only affects the individual, but also the individual’s family and any other caregivers. It can be a very difficult time for all those involved. We’ve put together some tips on how to better manage your relationship with a loved one tackling dementia, and how to communicate more effectively in order to provide the best care possible.

Limit distractions
Before you try to communicate, ensure that there are minimal distractions and noise. If possible, move to a quieter area to ensure that you have their full attention. By limiting environmental distractions and allowing them to focus on you, this improves the likelihood that they will understand you far better.

Keep conversations clear and simple
The way in which dementia affects an individual’s brain means that their ability to interpret information can be somewhat impaired. Sufferers of dementia may struggle to grasp complex ideas given to them and this can result in a lot of distress and frustration. Therefore, it is advised that you should keep questions simplified and be very clear in what you are asking of them.

Little by Little
Breaking up steps of a task makes life easier for anyone, regardless of illness! By making the activity/task smaller, this makes everything a lot more enjoyable and manageable for both the individual and the caregiver.

Positive Body Language
With dementia, verbal communication and understanding can break down. That is why is it important that your body language also communicates your positive and caring intentions as well as your verbal language. Positive body language includes actions such as maintaining eye contact and being on the same level (e.g. if they are sat down, lower yourself), nodding to show you understand and leaning towards them to show that you’re interested in what they’re saying.

Always provide reassurance
Your loved one can be very confused and sometimes scared at their lack of understanding. It is important that you make sure they feel and know that they are loved. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and make them feel included. Where appropriate, a comforting touch, such as a hug or holding of the hand, can sometimes make all the difference.

Positivity is key
Although this time is difficult for everyone involved, individuals with dementia can still live happy and fulfilling lives. It is important to maintain a positive and happy approach, and where appropriate/safe, encourage them to take part in activities and enjoy themselves.

Patience is a virtue
Dementia often affects language and the person’s ability to communicate. They may forget certain words and grammar may be mixed up, making communication more difficult. Appropriate responses to your questions may not be given as the individual may not have understood what you have asked or said to them. Dementia sufferers may also have slower cognitive abilities, meaning they take more time to process information. It is important to give them time to interpret the information given, don’t try to rush conversations.

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