Communication is a basic need for everyone, making us capable to express our wishes, needs and feelings. Our ability to communicate will affect quality of life, as well as our individuality and sense of identity. People suffering from dementia will at some point face challenges when communicating. You might already have noticed some situations where you and the one you are caring for have trouble understanding each other.
It is important to encourage the person to keep communicating, however they can. Acknowledge what they have said, even if they do not answer your question, or say something that seems out of context. Show that you are listening and have heard them by asking them to talk more about their answer. They might try to communicate something different from what you initially were asking for. If you misunderstand each other, laughter can be a nice way to minimize the pressure in the situation. However, try not to patronize or ridicule what the person is saying. Avoid drawing attention to mistakes they made, or correcting them. Speak clearly and calmly, in short sentences and concrete words. Make sure the person sees you and hear you clearly. Remember that many things can be misinterpreted, where “hang on” might be difficult to grasp, “wait a minute” can be more straightforward.
A person with dementia will be able to read your body language. Gestures, movement and facial expressions can convey meaning or help getting a message across. You can for instance use physical contact by holding the person’s hand, to communicate reassurance and support. Likewise, by paying attention to what the person is communicating through eyes and body language, you can find clues to what the person is attempting to say.
In the learn and train section of the DemiCare app, you will be presented with different scenarios, behaviors and symptoms that can occur when you are caring for someone with dementia, followed by advice on how to deal with it.