Communicating may become difficult for those who have dementia. Dementia affects different areas of the brain and may impact a person’s ability to communicate affectively through both speech and body language. Dementia may also affect the person’s ability to understand and process information that is being communicated. Communication is crucial for maintaining a positive environment, so it is very important that those in association with dementia sufferers take the time to understand and communicate successfully.
A positive attitude is helpful when attempting to communicate with a person who has dementia. Negative body language or frustration may be noticeable and may cause the individual to become defensive and less likely to respond in positive ways. Caregivers and loved ones should be very mindful of tone and body language when speaking to a person who has been diagnosed with dementia to avoid creating communication barriers.
Using clear, concise sentences and phrases may help to get messages across more successfully. Using abbreviations or figurative language may cause confusion, so this should be avoided. When speaking to dementia sufferers, raised tones may give the impression of anger or impatience. Caregivers and loved ones should keep tones low and repeat sentences if needed. If a sentence is not understood after several times of repeating, the sentence should be rephrased.
Audible distractions such as television programs and music may cause dementia sufferers to become confused or may make it difficult to focus attention. If the individual is obviously confused or distracted, background noises should be eliminated. If there are many people speaking in a home or building, taking the person outside to speak may help to foster more successful communication.
Ask Simple Questions
Questions should be kept simple and straightforward, with very simple “yes or no” or other one-word answers. Asking too many questions or questions that are difficult to answer may cause individuals with dementia to become frustrated or confused. This can lead to difficult behaviors and can create a communication barrier.
Dementia usually does not affect an individual’s sense of humor. Using humor may help the person to open up and be more inclined to attempt to understand and communicate. Jokes should never be made at the individual’s expense, though, as this may make the person feel excluded.
When a person with dementia becomes upset or sad, acknowledging these feelings can help to validate the individual. Caregivers or loved ones can offer the person a listening ear or compassion. After acknowledging the negative emotions, it may be helpful to change the subject or environment in order to make the person feel better. Going for a walk or playing a game may provide a welcome distraction.
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