Communicating with a Person with Dementia
Communication is a common problem with dementia. The person may have trouble making oneself understood. The person may not be able to figure what others are saying, or to interpret visual cues. These problems are often hard for everyone. Here are some common problems
- Has trouble finding words.
- Is able to read, but not understand.
- Is able to read ,but not retain.
- Is able to read, but not follow written instructions.
- Is unable to read.
- Is able to understand in person, but not on the telephone.
- Is not able to focus on tasks.
What You Can Do
Keep things simple. You might want to try to
- Correct any hearing or vision problems.
- Reduce background noise.
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Use simple words and short one-step commands.
- Try written cues in the early stage of the disease.
- Maintain eye contact when talking or listening.
- Remain calm. Tone of voice is very important.
- Allow enough time for a response.
- Offer support.
- Help with word finding unless that causes more stress for the person.
- Suggest one thing at a time.
- Repeat the same question if there has been no response.
- Do not argue.
- Try again later.
- Increase light.
- Sit facing each other.
- Touch an area of the body, and then ask questions about it.
- Don't try to use logical argument.
- Do 'go with the flow'.
As verbal communication declines, non-verbal cues become more important. When this happens, you will want to:
- Pay attention to feelings. Feelings are important when words have less meaning.
- Use touching, smiles, and helpful gestures.
- Offer support if the same question is asked over and over. Respond to any anxious feelings.
The Alzheimer's Association is a great source of information. You can contact them at 1-800-272-3900 or www.alz.org.
Another good resource is the Alzheimer's Disease Education Resource Center. You can contact them at 1-800-438-4380 or www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers.
Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of WI is another great resource. You can contact them at 1-888-308-6251 or www.alzwisc.org
Kindig, Mary Norton, MSW; Molly Carnes, MD. Coping with Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementing Illnesses. Singular Publishing Group, Inc. 1993
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 01/22/2013
Copyright © 03/28/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5265
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