Communication skills gradually decline as the dementia progresses. The impaired communication skills effect the ability to interact, connect and maintain positive relationships with those involved.
Here are a few tips on how to improve communication with someone who is living with dementia:
Care partners must forget the word “remember” with the person who is living with dementia. Care partners must put aside feelings of anger and fear. They must try to understand what is happening to the person who is living with dementia.
- Methods of communication may vary from day to day.
- Maintain a soft tone of voice
- Break down tasks into simple steps
- Ask questions that require single word or yes/no responses; provide choices of two.
- Reasoning will not work due to the moderate and severe cognitive deficits
- Maintain eye-contact and limit distractions when interacting.
- Respectfully, refer to people by their names and not pet names such as “sweetie”, ” baby”, ” honey”. etc.
Difficult Behaviors Have a Purpose
- When your loved one has difficult behaviors, he/she is trying to communicate.
- Difficult behaviors include: resistance to care, physical and verbal aggression/outbursts, anxiety, confusion, depression, wandering.
Triggers for Difficult Behaviors:
- Excessive stimulation-overwhelmed
- Abrupt changes within environment
General Management of Difficult Behaviors
- Decrease distractions
- Remain calm
- Brief and simple one-step directions paired with visual cues
- Leave and then return once both of you are calm
- Re-direct conversation if possible
- Approach in front within their visual field starting at 6 feet, then slowly progress to person’s dominant side
- Always make sure that your presence is known before approaching.
- Talking down to
- Asking questions that rely on memory
- Touching without permission
- Loud voice
- Physical contact/Restraints
Most important to remember:
” They cannot change their behaviors. You must change your approach.”