Few things in end-of-life care are more heartbreaking, stressful, and scary than trying to communicate with a loved one who has dementia. When a loved one can’t remember your name or who you are it can be devastating and terrifying. This added level of emotion makes a challenging situation worse.
However, as frustrating as it can be, regular communication with dementia patients is critical to their health and treatment. If you’re struggling to communicate with a dementia patient, consider the following.
Be Positive- Even when you do get frustrated, do your best to not show it in front of your loved one. Remember that the majority of communication is nonverbal, so use your tone, body language, and facial expressions to keep things positive.
Remove Distractions- TVs, radios, outside noises, and busy settings can all be very distracting. When the time comes to have a conversation you need to remove all possible distractions. Close the doors and windows, shut the blinds, and turn off all electronics. This will keep the focus on the conversation and reduce the risk of your loved one getting distracted.
Listen Well- It’s common for dementia patients to struggle to find words and answer questions. Be on the lookout for this, and be ready to listen with your ears and eyes. When they are struggling to find the right words or appear confused, don’t be afraid to make suggestions. It’s also helpful to read between the lines and try to figure out the meaning or feeling they’re trying to tell you.
Keep it Simple- Always ask simple questions and don’t ask more than one question at a time. Instead of asking open ended questions, give two or three options or just stick to yes or no questions.
Be Reassuring- Remember that your loved one is probably just as frustrated, if not more so, as you. If they start getting flustered give them a reassuring physical touch and let them know it’s okay. Reassure them that you’re here to help and that no one is mad at them.
Communicating with dementia patients is inevitably hard, so the most important thing to remember is that it’s normal to be frustrated. The staff at Cura-HPC is trained to help facilitate communication between dementia patients and their family. It’s just one of the ways we treat both the patient and the family.