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Dementia: 10 Effective Communication Tips

September 21, 2019 | Villa Cathay Blog

Fact. Over 50 million people around the world live with dementia. Every 3 seconds, someone in the world develops dementia.1 The 2019 theme of World Alzheimer’s Month is “Let’s talk about dementia: End stigma”. Being able to receive proper care and to plan ahead when diagnosed with dementia at the beginning can help the individual adjust to the start of their new life. Even with dementia, it is possible to live a fulfilled life, but it will require a multi-faceted approach.

Behaviors attributed to Dementia

It is important to understand that people with dementia may develop a variety of changes to their behaviors. They consist of some of the following, but not limited to:

  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Disorientation of time and general confusion
  • Personality or mood change
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Sleeplessness
  • Incontinence

These symptoms do not define the individual and are not to say that the individual cannot continue to live a fulfilled life. As caregivers, we can pro-actively address the stigmatism. Language, inclusion and dementia-friendly communities are important factors in this reduction of stigma. What we say can negatively impact how others treat people with dementia, such as referring to dementia as an illness. We want to improve the overall quality of life for those impacted with dementia.

10 Effective Communication Tips to Speak with People with Dementia

Here are some ways to help you to communicate with those individuals who have dementia:

  1. Minimize distractions. Isolate distractions such as background noise from TV or Radio. Find a place and time to talk when there aren’t distractions present.
  2. Speak clearly and naturally in a warm and calm voice. Be aware of speed and clarity. Use a gentle and relaxed tone—a lower pitch is more calming.
  3. Identify yourself and refer to other people by their names. Avoid pronouns like “he,” “she,” and “they” during your conversation. For example, say “Hi, Grandma. It’s John,” rather than, “Hi! It’s me!”
  4. Talk about one thing at a time. Multi-thread conversation or long stories can be overwhelming. Use short, simple words and sentences, and only talk about one thing at a time.
  5. Limit questions and describe the action. Say, “Your dinner is ready now. Please come here,” instead of asking, “Do you want dinner now?”
  6. Have patience. Give your loved one extra time to process what you say. Allow them ample time to respond. Don’t let frustration get the better of you.
  7. Respect personal space. Just like you don’t want people up in your face, remember that they need space just like you. Allow them to feel more in control of the situation.
  8. Be respectful. Remember to treat a person with dementia with dignity and respect. Don’t talk about them as if they are not there or don’t understand what you are saying.
  9. Be careful with your body language. Make eye-level contact and match your body language with your words. Make use of non-verbal cues and gestures.
  10. Smile, laugh and use your sense of humor. Humor can bring you closer to your loved one, and relieve the pressure. Laughter is contagious and your loved one would for sure love a good belly laugh!


World Alzheimer’s Month

Engaging people with dementia means to empower them to live their pre-diagnosis lives for as long as possible. 2 In honor of World Alzheimer’s Month, Villa Cathay is hosting a Dementia Senior Luncheon on October 18th to discuss dementia care strategies. We have invited 3 guest speakers who are experts in this field to share their knowledge with you. Lunch is free for anyone over the age of 65+. Space is limited. Please contact [email protected] if this interests you.

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