Communicating with dementia patients can be difficult. As the disease progresses, symptoms such as memory loss and difficulty choosing and using words makes it a challenge for dementia patients to communicate effectively. If you are a caregiver, it’s important to know the keys for successfully communicating with dementia patients.
Get to Know Your Patient
Use your dementia patient’s name and/or nickname. If you know the patient, then you’ll also be more likely to know how they’ll perceive touch in communication. For instance, many dementia patients respond well to a gentle pat on the shoulder to help keep them engaged in a conversation.
When speaking to a dementia patient, you’ll want to ensure that you are speaking clearly, at a slightly slower pace, and at a volume at which your patient can hear you. If your patient has hearing issues, then you will need to keep that in mind. Use short, concise sentences, and never use slang or metaphors when speaking to your dementia patient.
Before you begin speaking to your dementia patient, be sure that you are on their level. You might need to sit beside them, for instance. In addition, always make eye contact, and remember to smile. You never want to raise your voice with a dementia patient, however, and you want to remain conversational. Refrain from asking too many questions.
Lastly, consider the situation of your dementia patient and imagine if you were in their shoes. Be patient. Be respectful. Include them in conversations. Help them be heard. The progression of dementia will cause a worsening of symptoms, but dementia patients are still people. Your role in helping them communicate also helps them avoid feeling isolated and unwanted.
If you are in the role of caregiving for a dementia patient, then you will see many ups and downs, but work to get to know your patient during the ups so that you can communicate with them – and even for them – during the downs.