Communication and Dementia

September 21, 2014 in Alzheimer's & Dementia |

Another posting from Kevin Lopes our communications and media co-op student:

Interacting and communicating with people with different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, can be a challenging experience for everyone involved. Creating an excellent set of guiding principles and tips for effective, positive and meaningful communication for people with dementia is beneficial for both the people suffering from dementia, and their care givers. A better understanding of dementia, how it affects the brain, how to assist those with it and how to interact with them is important for everyone involved.

Care UK is a leading provider of health and social care services in the United Kingdom. They have extensive knowledge and experience with dementia care. Reading a guide created by Care UK designed for care givers, relatives and friends has provided insight on communicating with people living with dementia. In their guide, Care UK explains how listening, talking and connecting with people who are living with dementia can be manageable and rewarding.

Try to put yourself in their shoes, and understand where they are coming from. Here are considerations to make when interacting with people living with dementia:

1. We Are Social Beings: We have a basic need to communicate. A need to know that what we have said has been heard. Social interactions and communication is key. Always make it clear that you are listening to them, and that they have your full attention. Interacting with children and pets are also beneficial for people with dementia.

2. Non-Verbal Communication is Key: Be aware of your body language, and theirs. Body language can be misunderstood or cause confusion to people with dementia.

3. Perception – “Their Moment”: Dementia takes away a person’s ability to recall recent memories. When dealing with someone with dementia, it’s their perception of reality that counts. If they believe its 1962, you should too. Join them in “their moment”.

4. Follow their lead: If the person with dementia is reliving one of their memories, join them. Be able to talk about the period that they are currently living in. Don’t try to bring them back, as this may cause distress, confusion and frustration.

5. Start a conversation – Create a “life book”: Create a box of photos, videos and objects of hobbies or places that will spark their memories. These memories allow conversations to flow more easily. This “book” should focus on three themes: home, work and family. Ask simple and closed questions to keep the conversation moving.

6. Understand changes in behaviour: Dementia can cause people to lash out, and forget someone. Don’t be offended or get mad. Accept the fact that they can change, and care for them for who they are today.

It is important to understand that we have to change our communication style in order to meet the needs of a person living with dementia, as they are unable to change theirs. By listening, talking and connecting, communication between people with dementia and the caregivers, family and friends can be more rewarding for everyone involved.

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