Strategies of Communicating With People With Dementia
Comfort Comes First
- There are many ways you can make a person with dementia more comfortable while talking with you, which will also make him more receptive to your communication. If you interact with him regularly, you may notice if he is at his best at a particular time of day; if you don't see him often, someone who works with him regularly may be able to tell you this. At some times, like right before a meal, he may be distracted by things like hunger. It can also set someone with dementia at ease if you meet him in a place he is familiar with, like his home.
Limit things that may distract him, like noises, glare from light or movement. You can also check that the temperature is comfortable, that he is dressed appropriately for the temperature, that he's had a chance to use the toilet recently and that he has access to something to drink if he gets thirsty while you talk. To keep him comfortable throughout your meeting, watch for body language that suggests his needs or any discomfort.
Talking to People With Dementia
- Wait until you are seated at the same level and making eye contact before you speak. Start by identifying yourself by name and addressing the person with dementia by name. It's important to speak slowly and clearly. Use words she will understand and speak with enough volume, but also refrain from being condescending. When giving instructions, give one at a time. When asking things, ask yes or no questions or give choices between just two options.
Since people with dementia may forget what they were saying, you should always let her speak first if you both start speaking at the same time. It is also important to be patient, letting her finish her own sentences and take her time to think of responses. Frequently correcting things she says or pressing her when you don't understand something she's said may only serve to upset her.
It can also be helpful to ensure that the room is light enough so that your face can be seen, and that there is not bright light behind you that will make you look darker. If the person you're speaking with wears glasses or hearing aids, encourage her to wear them, as they can make your features and voice clearer for her. Expressive body language is also helpful.