The most prevalent symptoms of dementia are memory issues and problems with communication, causing many to feel disheartened and nervous when it comes to having a conversation with someone who suffers from dementia. However daunting it may be, it is important to continue communication, as it can greatly improve wellbeing. There are many things you can do to adapt your way of conversing in order to make conversations go smoother.
Choosing a positive environment can make a big difference. For example; in one of the care homes in Somerset. Ensure you choose somewhere that isn’t too unfamiliar, has good lighting and isn’t too noisy or has too many distractions. You’ll want to sit where there is good light on your face, not too far away and at the same level as them so that they can easily see and hear you. Also, meet at a time of day where they are known to be more calm and lucid.
Sufferers of dementia tend to have increased anxiety, especially as they are often aware of their difficulties with memory and communication leading to feelings of frustration, worry, confusion and even embarrassment. Give the conversation lots of time, do not rush anything and ensure you don’t have to rush off anywhere. Be relaxed, patient and active with your listening.
If the individual with dementia is a loved one, attempting to converse can be distressful. However, it is imperative that you remain calm and positive. If the individual can sense your worry you could make them worse. Spend time putting yourself into a calm frame of mind before the meeting, and have some idea of what you want to talk about – having conversation topics ready may help you relax.
Ensure you speak very clearly, slowly and evenly. Do not raise your voice and try to keep an even tone and pace. Do not rush into sentences and conversation topics; the individual needs time to process information and get out what they want to say. Really dig into a topic before moving on and try not to jump around into different conversations, stay on one topic consistently.
Do not ask too many questions or put too much pressure on making decisions. If they are struggling to reply, give them time then rephrase what you have said. Try not to contradict yourself or them, and speak to them as an equal.
Repeat names in conversation, both the name of the individual and the names of people you are referring to in conversation. But do so in a way that is not patronising, as the individual will sense this, worsening the situation.
Keep conversations brief, especially if you sense them becoming harder to communicate with. They may be feeling weary of frustrated.
Listening is a very important skill, and you may not be as good at it as you think. Pay close attention to everything they are saying, more so than in a normal conversation. Be lightly encouraging and pay attention to their body language and expressions. You may need to pick up on small nuances and clues to piece together what they are trying to communicate. You can ask for them to rephrase what they are saying, but be patient.
Be empathetic and show your empathy. Acknowledge their feelings in a non-patronising way, and do not draw attention to mistakes they make. You being there will likely be calming, so pay attention to your own demeanour. Give them space, but remember that a small kind touch may also be very helpful.