Talking To Loved Ones With Dementia
Communicating with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease, another dementia or memory loss can be challenging if not frustrating for both communicative partners. However, there are three common tips to remember when presented with speech and communication issues.
- Ensure that the attention of your loved one is not only on you but on the current topic. Some of the frustration and confusion can be reduced simply by ensuring that you have your loved ones attention before communicating with them. This can be done by sitting in close proximity, preferably directly in front of them, exuding proper body language by facing them and not only making eye contact but maintaining it as well. Alzheimer’s disease impacts an individual’s peripheral vision, so standing slightly to the side can be significantly detrimental to their focus or attention as they may no longer see you. Additionally, don’t assume that even if you are in their field of vision that they are actually looking at you, eye contact is still imperative.
- Continue to maintain the attention of your loved one as people living with Alzheimer’s disease present with difficulty concentrating. This can be done by continuously stating your loved ones name and waiting for them to respond before continuing with the conversation. Another helpful tip is to use simpler sentences along with a slower rate of speech. Additionally, try to decrease the amount of questions and/or options presented to them within one conversational exchange and if a decision needs to be made try to limit the choices to two or else communication may be hindered.
- Another way to decrease the demands placed on your loved one is by not putting them on the spot which a memory, which can unwittingly create anxiety for individual’s with Alzheimer’s disease. To someone who presents with dementia, it can feel as though they are being tested on something they do not know the answers to, which could potentially be setting them up to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Although Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia impact several speech and language areas, it does not cause individuals to forget how to feel emotions. Although these may be well-meaning questions, try to reword them in a way that is much less likely to create anxiety or confusion, which significantly increases the likelihood of a positive experience for the person with dementia.
-Rebecca Hipp M.A., CF-SLP, TSSLD