Communication Strategies When A Parent Has Dementia

communicating strategiesCommunication is an important part of our lives. It lets us express who we are and what’s on our minds. Communication involves many aspects - not just talking. There’s also listening, understanding and interpreting. When a person has dementia, they may lose their ability to communicate verbally. But this does not mean that they can’t communicate.

If your parent or grandparent has dementia, it’s important to know how to talk and listen to them. Below you will find a few strategies for communicating with your loved one with dementia.

Learn About Dementia

A good first step is to educate yourself on dementia, how it progresses and the ways it affects individuals. There are different types of dementia, though the condition often presents itself in similar ways.

For example, there are seven stages of dementia. By understanding these stages and what to expect, you can be better prepared for communicating with your relative. You can also learn to interpret your loved one’s verbal and nonverbal cues.

Speak Slowly and Clearly

Speak clearly and at a slightly slower pace. You want to give your loved one enough time to process what you are saying. Talk in short, simple sentences and avoid asking too many questions. It’s best to be friendly, calm and conversational.

To help a conversation go smoothly, don’t jump right into things. Choose a quiet space without distractions and get the person’s full attention before you start talking. Avoid rushing - give yourself plenty of time to be together.

Avoid Open-Ended Questions

Your parent can get easily confused if you start asking too many questions. Stick to one idea at a time, and if you need to ask something, try to make it a “yes or no” question. For example, say “Mom, do you remember Joan? She’s come to visit you.” This is better than, “Mom, do you remember who this is?”

If you notice that your parent isn’t following you, rephrase what you said. Repeating can leave them - and you - frustrated. Also, using visual cues can support what you’re trying to say.

Include Them in Your Conversations  

Avoid talking about your parent in front of them. It’s important that they feel valued and maintain a sense of identity. Try to include your loved one in the conversations you have, even if you feel they will have a hard time understanding.

Also, be aware that a person with dementia is capable of communicating in other ways. Even if your loved one can’t speak well, pay attention to other cues. Hand gestures, facial expressions and body language go a long way in telling what your parent is thinking and feeling.

Dementia can be caused by a number of disorders, but most of the time, the symptoms are not treatable. To enhance communication with your loved one, follow our strategies above, or seek additional professional support from home care services or mental health services in your area.