When someone has dementia, their language skills are impaired, making communication challenging for everyone concerned. In order to help them maintain their dignity and minimize stress, it is essential that caregivers learn to speak differently than they always did in the past. It is truly like learning a new language.
Good communication skills and guidelines enable effective, compassionate conversations as well as prevent many disease related behaviors. It also makes it easier for caregivers to assist with activities of daily living; such as, eating, dressing, bathing and toileting.
Keeping in mind that communication is a two-way process, some tips and techniques include:
- Look directly at the person when speaking
- Speak slowly and say words clearly
- Use short, simple sentences
- Avoid clichés and unfamiliar words or sayings
- Repeat or reword as needed
- Use nouns instead of pronouns
- Important information should be at the end
- Avoid open ended questions
- Use positive words and statements
There will be times when you just can’t understand what they are trying to say to you. It helps to pay close attention to their body language, allow plenty of time without interrupting and focus on the words or phrases that do make sense. When they lose their train of thought, repeat their last words back to them. If you still don’t understand, it is best to simply say so.
We use our words and body language to state our needs and desires, to share our thoughts and opinions, to socialize, and share our feelings and emotions. When caregivers use a language of dignity, every word and actions expresses affection and says to their loved-one, “What you say and think, matters to me.”
By Pam Kovacs Johnson