Communication Is Key To Dementia Care
According to University of Arizona Communication Professor Jake Harwood, who served as an expert source for the Home Instead® 40-70 Rule program, ineffective communication can eventually affect the quality of care for a person with dementia.
How to Talk to Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s Disease or Another Form of Dementia
Simplify your communication.
People with dementia typically benefit from simplified speech. It’s very beneficial to keep sentence constructions simple. Many older persons find multi-clause phrases difficult to understand, and those with significant cognitive impairments may find them impossible to comprehend.
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Talk that is patronizing should be avoided.
Short phrases, childlike terminology (“choo-choo” instead of “train”), pet names (“sweetie”), and baby-like intonation are all examples of “baby talk.” There is no proof that using this type of communication is effective. Patronizing behavior is not only regarded as disrespectful, but it also inhibits cooperation and makes giving care more difficult.
Take your time
Allowing pauses in discussion, being willing to repeat and elaborate, and waiting for a response all indicate that the conversational partner is receptive to you. These behaviors also give the person with dementia the extra time they may need to form connections and respond.
Allow for freedom of choice.
Even simple choices (“Would you prefer X or Y?”) confer personhood and provide opportunities for control in a world where such opportunities are often scarce. For some dementia patients, choices with too many options (“What do you want to do?”) can be daunting.
It’s unlikely that abstract vocabulary, metaphors, colloquialisms, and wordplay will be successful. Rather of pet names or “he” or “she,” people with dementia respond to specific, concrete language, particularly language rich in concrete nouns and people’s actual names.
Take advantage of the natural world.
Photographs, food, music, people, and a variety of other objects in the surroundings can all stimulate engagement. This method, as well as encouraging the person with dementia to do so, can assist sustain communication.
Contact the individual.
People with dementia, above all, want opportunities to interact socially and engage in discussion. Others have a basic responsibility to react in order to keep the conversation continuing, even if it looks to be stalled. Conversations with dementia patients are not “regular” conversations, and the goal should not be to correct inaccurate comments or obtain a “proper” response. Instead than focusing on facts, pay attention to your feelings.
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For persons with dementia, any opportunity for engagement is valuable because it allows them to sense a fundamental human connection, according to Harwood. “Not only does negotiating a good interaction enrich the life of the patient, but it also makes our work as health-care providers more exciting, fulfilling, and enjoyable.”