Posted on April 16, 2015
Dementia Communication Strategies for Caregivers
Dementia communication strategies are necessary for the primary caregiver of dementia sufferers. Often, caregivers become distressed at the changes that occur in behavior or verbalization that happen as dementia progresses. Filters often fall to the wayside and inappropriate or embarrassing outburst can occur. It is important to remember that these outburst or comments are not a reflection of your loved one, it is simply the dementia.
One of the most difficult aspects in dementia care is communication. Dementia sufferers often experience trouble in processing information as the condition progresses. This, in combination with a decreased ability to express their needs, can cause significant distress for the dementia sufferer and those caring for them.
People with advanced dementia are dealing with cognitive deficits and associated behavioral issues. This issues include anxiety, fear, depression and frustration. It is most helpful to be aware of these changes and approach conversations in a caring, compassionate and calm manner.
Other helpful dementia communication strategies:
- Never appear angry or authoritative, approach an individual with a smile and soothing voice. This will increase the possibility of relaxation and openness to conversation
- Always state who you are and your purpose for being there.
- Speak slowly and reduce movements.
- Speak to them directly, with good eye contact. If a primary caregiver is present, they can provide any clarification or additional information regarding any questions ask.
- Include them in all conversation. Marginalizing someone will create feelings of anger and confusion.
- Minimize external distractions, especially if trying to give instructions.
- Keep sentences short, using familiar words.
- Wait patiently for responses. It will take them longer to process what you have said.
- If asking questions, try to use Yes/No questions.
- If giving instructions, issue one instruction at a time.
- Give time to answer, if necessary repeat the question slowly and clearly.
If agitation occurs remember:
- Remain calm.
- Remain patient.
- Try rephrasing request or question.
- Use distraction and redirection if behaviors/responses become inappropriate.
If your attempt to communicate at that moment are not working, be willing to move to another topic or abandon the conversation presently. You can always try again, shortly, when the person calms down. There is no sense in forcing the situation, as this will do nothing more than increase agitation.
Above all, remember that there should be no power-struggle. It will be much more rewarding and effective to attempt to gain consensus and cooperation.
Gabriela F. Brown, CSA
Constant Companions Home Care