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Beacon of HOPE Wellness Committee: How to communicate better with someone with dementia

October 23, 2019
By Kathy Schwarzhoff-Dutko , Pine Island Eagle

Communication with a person with Alzheimer's and related dementia re-quires patience, understanding and good listening skills. Changes in the ability to communicate can vary, and are based on the person and where he or she is in the disease process. Problems you can expect to see throughout the progression of the disease include:

- Difficulty finding the right words. Using familiar words repeatedly.

- Describing familiar objects rather than calling them by name.

- Easily losing train of thought. Difficulty organizing words logically. Speaking less often.

The strategies below can help both you and the person with dementia understand each other better.

- Speak directly to the person rather than to his or her caregiver or companion. If the person is not familiar with you, approach the person from the front and identify yourself.

- Ask one question at a time. Speak slowly and clearly using few, but direct, words.

- Ask "yes" or "no" questions. For example, "Would you like some coffee?" rather than "What would you like to drink?"

- Give the person plenty of time to respond, so he or she can process what you said and think of a response. Repeat what was said to clarify.

- Offer short and clear, step-by-step instructions for simple tasks. Demonstrate the task to encourage participation and ask for assistance. "Can you help me fold these clothes?"

- Avoid criticizing or correcting. Instead listen and watch facial expressions. Try to find the meaning in what the person says. Sometimes the emotions being expressed are more important then what's being said.

- Avoid arguing. If the person says something you don't agree with, let it be.

Don't make assumptions about a person's ability to communicate because of an Alzheimer's diagnosis. The disease affects each person differently. He or she may feel overwhelmed by excessive stimulation. Choose a quiet place where you can have a one-on-one conversation.

The Alzheimer's Association hosts a Caregiver's Support Group at the Beacon of HOPE every third Monday of the month from 10 to 11 a.m. Call the Beacon or just stop by. The Alzheimer's Association 24-hour hotline is 800-272-2900.

Remember that you are not alone and take advantage of the various resources available to help you and your loved one.

The Beacon of HOPE is at 5090 Doug Taylor Circle, St. James City. 239-283-5123.

 
 

 

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