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Communication and Dementia: 7 Strategies for Success


It’s difficult to witness a loved one progressing through memory loss, most often seen in the form of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as it gets worse over time. Forgetfulness strikes imposing severe ailments not only in their life, but the lives of those around them.

Although difficult, it is not a reason to feel defeated. One of the best things we can do is take into consideration what our loved ones are going through to understand it better and find ways to effectively communicate and connect emotionally.

Here are 7 helpful strategies to practice effective communication for moderate to severe dementia.

1. Understand and accept: Dementia is a progressive disease, meaning unfortunately, it’s going to get worse. Being able to come to terms with the fact that those dealing with dementia have a difficult time communicating and understanding will make subsequent decisions and experiences easier.

2. Be patient: Coming to terms with this disease and it’s inevitable progression is the first step, being patient is the second. It will probably take your loved one longer to process what you’re trying to communicate - give them time. Do your best to not get frustrated or irritated as you might frustrate them in doing so.

3. Strive for progress, not perfection: Some days will flow smoothly and other will be a rocky road. This comes with acceptance and patience. Take it one day, one conversation at a time. Leading with compassion for your loved one and for yourself will help highlight the idea of "progress" rather than "perfection", stay away from unrealistic expectations.

4. Communicate naturally: They may have difficulty understanding, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Talking to them as you would naturally, in a warm, friendly, and loving voice will prevent any tension from existing, which could potentially cause more problems.

5. Clear and concise: Communicating clearly and honestly can greatly prevent any unnecessary confusion. If you don’t understand something they’re saying, politely and kindly let them know. Using names in conversation will help keep things in complete understanding, this includes theirs and yours. Be sure to continue to remind them who they are, who you are, and whoever else you’re talking about by name. Confusion arises if pronouns like “he”, “she”, or “they” are used.

6. Avoid distractions: Talk about one thing at a time to prevent further confusion. Put yourself in an environment where there are little distractions that way you can both focus on the topic at hand.

7. Use nonverbal cues: This goes for anyone and everyone you communicate with. Maintaining eye contact and smiling will help put your loved one at ease and facilitate in better understanding for both parties. When dementia is in its most advanced stages, nonverbal communication can be the only form of communication available.

If you think someone you know is developing dementia, learn how to spot early signs of dementia here.

If you think memory care assisted living may be the next step, do not hesitate to speak with one of our eldercare advisors: 573-544-0756

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