The first symptom of dementia is short term memory loss. As the symptoms progress, they become more severe and interfere with social and intellectual abilities. For your loved one, frustration and isolation can set in, which is why its important to remain calm and supportive. Here are 10 helpful tips for communicating with a loved one who has dementia.
1. Be calm and reassuring. Your loved one will pick up on your feelings through the way you talk, so use simple words and speak slowly.
2. Your loved one is dealing with their own feelings of confusion, anxiety and irritability. Depression is also common. Be supportive, and never use words that will demean your loved one.
3. Maintain a regular schedule. This will help your family member know what’s coming next, maintain their independence and feel in control.
4. Keep expectations reasonable. You may have to change them over time, but this will alleviate frustration on both ends.
5. Address your family member by their name to get their attention. For instance, instead of saying “Mom” or “Grandma,” call them by their first name, especially in crowded settings. Use eye contact and nonverbal communication to help get a message across.
6. Ask only one question at a time. Stick to yes or no questions, and give your loved one a chance to answer the question with what they really want.
7. Don’t sneak up on your loved one from the back. Approach from the front so that they see you coming and know who you are.
8. Always be patient. If you rush your loved one, this will add to their confusion. Allow time on your end so that you don’t take a rushed morning out on your parent or grandparent.
9. Show your love, affection and commitment to your loved one. Sometimes a gentle hug or holding of the hand is all your loved one needs to remind them that you are there.
10. Use humor. Never at your loved one’s expense, of course, but sometimes, we all need a good laugh. After all, there are some things we just can’t change.