How to Effectively Communicate with Seniors Suffering from Dementia
Posted by Mike McQuinn on August 15, 2015 | no comments
Dementia Leads to a Loss of Memory and Cognitive Abilities for Senior Citizens
Dementia is a health condition that affects memory and cognitive abilities in older individuals who may also have hearing or vision loss that makes it difficult to communicate. Effective communication with a senior citizen who has dementia is often a challenge for a caregiver in either a private residence or assisted living facility.
In addition to losing their memory, a senior citizen with dementia forgets essential language skills such as vocabulary and sentence structure. The individual with dementia may also not understand nonverbal communication such as a facial expression or hand gesture that they learned at a younger age. To make matters more difficult for a caregiver, the senior citizen’s dementia condition changes each day, making it necessary to develop new ways of communicating during each visit.
1. Identify Yourself during Each Conversation
A senior citizen with a dementia condition such as Alzheimer’s disease is often frightened and unaware of what is happening to them. Do not expect the individual to recognize your face when entering a room, and prepare to tell them your name immediately. Despite telling the senior citizen your name, they may forget it within minutes before becoming confused or angry.
2. Talk Directly to the Senior Citizen
Stand or sit close to the individual with dementia to ensure they can hear you speaking. Make sure the senior citizen is wearing their eyeglasses or hearing aids during each conversation. Make sure to speak clearly and watch carefully for signs that the elderly individual is distressed, and you may need to repeat important information several times.
3. Remain Calm while Talking
You might find it frustrating to keep explaining something over and over as the senior citizen forgets what was said, but it is essential to remain respectful. Use simple words that the elderly person will understand without treating them like a child. When asking a question, phrase it to receive a yes or no answer to make the conversation easier.
4. Listen to Responses Carefully
An individual with dementia may use unusual words or sentences to talk with someone as they struggle to remember lost vocabulary. You may need to have the senior repeat what they said to understand what they are trying to say. By responding with compassion during conversations, the elderly individual is more likely to remain calm.
5. Avoid Unnecessary Distractions
To help the individual with dementia to stay focused during a conversation, reduce distractions in the room by turning off televisions and radios. For serious communication that requires an answer, have a one-on-one conversation without multiple people in the senior’s room.
6. Record Conversations or Take Written Notes
It is often necessary to record conversations with an individual with dementia or take written notes about legal matters. A video recording of a conversation frequently helps the senior citizen to remember what was said to avoid conflict later.