When caring for a loved one with dementia, it might be difficult knowing how to best connect with them. Communicating becomes more challenging as the disease progresses, which can lead to feelings of frustration or resentment, both for the caregiver and the dementia sufferer. So, it’s important to strengthen your communication skills to reduce the stress of caregiving and maintain a healthy, warm relationship. Below we’ll walk you through some helpful steps toward fostering a bond with your elderly relative or friend.
Create a positive atmosphere with your interactions
When trying to connect to a person with dementia, the most important thing isn’t what you say, but how you act toward them. Use nonverbal cues to your advantage to create a positive, comfortable atmosphere. Make sure to maintain eye contact and smile while speaking in a friendly tone of voice. Always be respectful in what you say and avoid using “babytalk” or any form of condescension. Your body language and attitude should never convey impatience or anger. Creating a positive atmosphere will facilitate understanding and communication, whereas stressing or upsetting your family member or friend with dementia will produce the opposite effect.
Get their attention and communicate clearly
Keep distractions to a minimal. Communicating in a quiet, peaceful room is much more effective than a noisy, busy space with a blaring TV and lots of surrounding chatter. Make sure you have their full attention. Address them by name first and then, if their dementia is moderate to severe, tell them your name and your relationship to them. Always strive to be as clear as possible. Pitch your voice lower and use simple, clear phrases when speaking. It’s helpful to avoid vague pronouns and opt for full names. Stick to asking one question at a time, preferably “yes or no” questions if possible. Avoid open-ended questions, which might seem more confusing and challenging to answer. Visual cues can also be beneficial. Overall, these simple approaches can greatly assist their understanding.
Stay open and patient
Don’t get frustrated if your interactions with your loved one aren’t going how you hoped. Despite the downward progression of the disease, dementia sufferers have good and bad days, just like anyone else. What may seem like a challenging interaction today might be more manageable on a different day. It’s important to stay open and be patient. Avoid the temptation to rush their answers. Allow a person with dementia extra time to think about what you’ve said and respond as best they can. Remember this disease is hard on them too. Stay fully supportive and respond to their struggles with love.
If you’re beginning to feel the strain of caring for your loved one with dementia, A.G. Rhodes is here to help you. As a leading provider of senior rehab services and long-term care, we’re committed to providing top-level services and a welcoming, home-like atmosphere for our elderly residents. Contact us at 1-877-918-6413 to find out more about our centers and services.