When someone you love has memory loss and dementia, communication can bring new challenges.
Whether it is caused by another health condition or a progressive cognitive impairment, dementia affects different people differently—and the communication challenges the person experiences are different, too. No matter what challenges your family is experiencing, the key is to communicate with love, patience and understanding. Here are some tips to help.
Include Your Family Member as Much as Possible
In the early stages of dementia, a family member may notice some of the cognitive and communication challenges they are having. They may be working hard to overcome them; keeping communication open and loving will make it easier for your loved one to seek your support.
Listen when your family member talks to you about what they’re noticing. Don’t point out every memory lapse or time when a sentence might not make sense. Instead, continue to talk with them in a loving, two-way conversation as much as possible.
As dementia progresses and communication becomes more challenging, you’ll also want to:
- Include them in decision-making as much as possible
- Listen to them, even if what they’re saying is hard to follow
- Remember that a loved one’s angry words are the result of dementia, not something the person would say if they were healthy
- Avoid talking about them as if they weren’t there
Be Aware of Your Tone
When a person deals with memory loss and confusion, they can have a difficult time following what you are saying—especially when you’re talking quickly, when other things are going on in the room, or when you are conveying detailed information. Your tone of voice become important indicators of what you mean. And a loved one with dementia will look to them for clues as to what you are trying to communicate.
That’s why it is important to be aware of your tone and voice. Talk in a soothing way and—if you find yourself feeling rushed, frustrated or scared—it’s okay to give yourself time to pause and take a few deep breaths.
Use Body Language
Like voice and tone, your loved one will also look to your body language to convey meaning. There are many things you can do to make sure that the message you’re getting across is a positive and supportive one—even if your family member is having a hard time understanding the meaning of your words.
It’s a good idea to:
- Make eye contact
- Hold your family member’s hand while you talk
- Use gentle touching to connect, even when you’re not talking
Seek Professional Guidance From Staff at a Memory Care Facility
When communication is challenging, you can also turn to professionals for guidance on how to connect with your loved one. Organizations like the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association offer information and tips for communication and Alzheimer’s, which apply to people with many different forms of memory loss.
At our memory care facility, we make your loved one’s physical and emotional well-being our top priority. That means working with families to help them understand the best way to support their family members in our care.