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6 ways to improve your communication with people who have dementia

Relationships are a fundamental aspect of everyone’s lives, and are especially significant for people who are suffering from dementia. Caring and communicating for a loved one who has dementia can be difficult and poses many challenges – but it’s worth making the effort to stay engaged and keep communicating.

An individual suffering from dementia may easily forget facts and fond memories, and it can cause erratic mood swings and sometimes a change in personality. Remember that behind all the symptoms they are still the same person that they were prior to the diagnosis. Although it may seem difficult at first, it’s vital to keep communicating during these times to avoid the feeling of isolation. In fact, studies have shown that constant communication can not only improve quality of life, but can even slow down the progression of dementia.

Here are our top tips on how to effectively communication and emotionally connect with someone suffering from dementia

1. Have a positive mood and be affectionate

Your attitude and body language communicate your feelings and thoughts stronger than your words. Enter a conversation with a calm, patient, and respectful manner.

2. Listen with your eyes, as well as your ears

Sometimes it may take a while for your loved one to reply to you. Be patient and, if you notice that they’re struggling to answer, it’s okay to suggest words. Watch for non-verbal and body language cues and respond appropriately. When the dementia is severe, non-verbal communication may be the only option.

3. Talk about one thing at a time

Someone with dementia may have difficulty juggling multiple conversations and thoughts at a time. By covering only one conversation and topic at a single time, it allows for greater mental engagement.

4. Engage their long-term memory – have conversations about the old days

Although short-term memory fades, long-term memory remains intact for much longer. Remembering the good ol’ days can be a soothing activity for a person with dementia as this information can be more easily retrieved.

5. Redirect when the conversation gets tough

There will be good days and bad. When a bad day arises and your loved one becomes agitated or frustrated during your conversation, try changing the subject or the environment.

6. Avoid distractions

Find a location and a time to talk where there are limited distractions; your loved one will be better able to focus all of their mental energy on the conversation.

For more information about dementia

If you or your loved one would like to learn more about dementia, there is plenty of support available.

In the Auckland region alone, more than 15,000 people are living with dementia. Dementia Auckland is one not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing dementia support services and inspiring those living with dementia to make the most of life. They believe that with the right support programmes, improved environments, and connection to community, people affected by dementia can continue to make the most of each moment.

Many local organisations across New Zealand can help provide support, education, information and related services, directly to members of the community who are living with dementia. These services may include education to assist with understanding and living with a dementia diagnosis; support for family, friends and whānau coping with the demands of caring; and support groups and day programmes for people affected by dementia. They can also advise you on the services available in your local community. Visit www.dementiaauckland.org.nz for more information on these services.

About Dementia Auckland

Dementia Auckland
Dementia Auckland is a not for profit organisation dedicated to providing dementia support services and inspiring those living with dementia to make the most of life. Dementia Auckland provides a wide range of services and support across the greater Auckland region. Dementia Key Workers offer intensive support and practical strategies for the carer of a person with dementia, including home visiting, telephone consultations, and support groups. Visit www.dementiaauckland.org.nz for more info.

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