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Interacting with dementia: Communicating with someone who has dementia

Take a look at how Eldermera approaches starting a conversation with someone who has dementia and what to discuss
Communicating with someone who has dementia

Interacting with dementia: Communicating with someone who has dementia

If you live with someone who has dementia, you may find that communicating with the person becomes more difficult over time, but maintaining contact and continuing to communicate will undoubtedly help your loved one. It may also give them a chance to talk about their feelings and overall health.

Effective communication

First of all, get comfortable, switch off distractions like the radio or the TV and make sure your body language is relaxed. Try to sit close together and maintain eye contact.

Making yourself understood and understanding your loved one is likely to take time, so be patient and don’t rush. Most of us get frustrated when the conversation doesn’t go the way we would like it to, but in this instance getting frustrated won’t help, so take a deep breath and sit back, let the conversation go if necessary. Don’t try to fill an ‘uncomfortable silence’ too because the person you are speaking to may be trying to gather their thoughts.

Just like everyone else, people with dementia have good days and bad days and some days they aren’t in the mood to talk so give them some space. In this instance, it may be better to come back to the subject later in the day or on the next day. Many people with dementia find that symptoms like confusion or agitation are less pronounced early in the day and get worse as evening approaches, so consider this when communicating with a person with dementia.

Asking the right questions

When asking someone specific questions about things in their daily life – such as whether they want a cup of tea, or what they want to do – try to phrase your questions in a way that allows for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. If they don’t respond or seem uncertain, it’s usually best to rephrase the question differently rather than keep repeating it.

If you are trying to have a conversation about memories of the past, try asking more open-ended questions and bringing up positive events. You could ask someone what their wedding dress looked like, if they could recall a happy moment or what they liked to do for fun when they were young. If they don’t have an answer or get anxious, you can move onto something else. The upshot is that they should feel comfortable with the conversation and not be pressured to answer.

Questions about more serious subjects like healthcare, financial and legal affairs will be more difficult to approach. If your loved one is not able to discuss Wills or advance care planning, you can ask them questions about their general values and feelings instead. For example, asking if they have particular wishes for the future instead is likely to help you get a better idea of what of care is appropriate for them.

A few useful tips to keep the conversation going:

  • Use their name. Frequently using someone’s name keeps their attention and helps them understand that you are speaking to them.
  • Try to stick to the same topic. A person with dementia might only grasp some aspects of what you say or drift in and out of the conversation. If you keep to one topic, they might find it easier to connect the dots.
  • Confirm when you understand what they have said. People with dementia who struggle to communicate may feel frustrated when talking, especially if they can’t find the right words or phrase to use. Once you have understood what they mean, let them know.
  • Avoid confrontation. It’s likely that a person with dementia might remember an event differently to how it happened, or misunderstand a situation. Instead of correcting them or arguing, it’s usually best to let it go and move onto a more positive topic.

Discuss legal and healthcare concerns with Eldermera

While it’s often still possible for a person with dementia to write a Will or make advance decisions, it can be difficult for people with advanced dementia to make informed decisions or communicate their wishes regarding healthcare and legal matters. This is why every individual has to be assessed carefully before any documents are signed.

Eldermera has experience with all aspects of dementia law and can help you plan for the future. If your loved one has problems communicating and doesn’t have a Will, a Statutory Will may be put in place. If a Lasting Power of Attorney was never arranged, it might be better to apply for a deputyship through the Court of Protection. Whatever problem you are facing, Eldermera can help you with the solution.

To find out how Eldermera can help your family make arrangements for the future, use our online form to schedule a free consultation with one of our expert care advocates.
Alternatively, call us on:
Nationwide tel: 0330 022 5778
Tel: 0207 030 4923