It’s always difficult when a loved one develops dementia. There is a grieving process for who they once were that is experienced by the individual and everyone around them. Yet even if their behavior changes, or they don’t recognize you, they are still the person you love. It is important to still interact with them, and support them the best that you can.
Simply spending the time talking to the person with dementia helps them in many ways. It helps to make them feel connected and engaged, and combats boredom. However, the way in which you talk to them might change as their condition develops.
First of all, continue to talk to them like they are an adult. Don’t talk to them as if they were an infant, even if they can’t seem to understand you. If they are not hard of hearing, use a soft voice instead of shouting at them. Use their actual name instead of pet names like “honey” or “sweetheart” unless that was a part of your relationship dynamic prior to their condition. Your words may be well-meaning, but it’s important to not come off as patronizing.
When talking to them, be sure to smile and make eye contact. Friendly non-verbal communication will make them feel more comfortable. So will talking to them on the same level, rather than talking from a standing position while they are sitting. Don’t talk to other people about them in front of them as if they are not there. Sure, you can ask their caregiver or family member a question about them, but first ask the person directly and give them a chance to respond.
Understanding what people are saying becomes more difficult as a person’s dementia progresses. To make it easier for them, use simple, literal language and avoid using slang or figures of speech. It’s important to make the interaction pleasant for them instead of stressful. Don’t hit them with a barrage of questions like an interrogation. Your goal is to provide encouragement, so ask just a few questions to draw them out and be patient while giving them time to answer.
Avoid making physical contact with the person unless you know they are comfortable with it. Some people with dementia become distressed when people encroach on their personal space.
However, gentle contact is beneficial for them if they allow it. A pat on the shoulder or holding their hand while you talk to them can bring them comfort.
If you have a loved one with dementia who may be in need of an assisted living home in Tucson, we have a community of loving caregivers and residents, and can provide the care needed for your loved one. Call to schedule a tour today.