How to Communicate with Seniors Who Have Dementia

Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that causes the sufferer memory loss, making it increasingly difficult for them to think clearly, communicate and care for themselves. They usually don’t understand what’s happening to them or recognize that they need assistance. Dementia sufferers often have extreme mood swings easily going from numbness to anger to sadness. All of this can cause a great deal of frustration for both the sufferer and their families.

At Care 2000 Health Services, we are one of the leaders in dementia care in North York and the GTA and have been providing senior care to North York residents for over 30 years. We have proven strategies that will help you effectively communicate with your loved one so that when you visit with them it is an experience you will both enjoy.

Communicating with a Person with Dementia

Ask the right questions. Avoid asking open-ended questions that require long answers. For example, instead of asking “What did you have for lunch?” ask, “Did you enjoy your lunch?”. Yes or no answers are easier for them to communicate. Using visual cues can help too. When picking out clothing for the day, ask them, “do you want to wear this or this?” and hold up each item.

Mind your tone of voice. Set a positive mood by speaking in a warm, respectful tone. Speak clearly and distinctly, using short sentences and simple language to convey your message. Let the conversation move at their pace. Give them lots of time to comprehend what you’re saying and respond.

Show affection. Your actions and body language communicate more to them than your words. Show affection, but only within their tolerance level. If they don’t recognize you, try not to be offended if they don’t want a hug. A loving squeeze of their hand shows them that you care.

Use reassuring language. People with dementia often feel confused or unsure of themselves. They may forget the current era in which they live or may ‘remember’ things that never happened to them. Don’t argue with them about it or tell them they are wrong. Acknowledge their thoughts and emotions and just move on with a different topic.

Validate, distract and redirect. If they are asking for something that cannot be done, such as, “Take me home!” when they are already home, tell them, “Okay, but we will go when traffic is less busy. Let’s go get some lunch.” They may not remember moving into their current residence and could be recalling their previous home or even their childhood home. Telling an ‘honourable lie’ will provide comfort and the request will be forgotten a few moments later.

Getting Help When You Need It Most

Taking care of someone with dementia is not an easy task. You don’t have to face it alone! If you need a caregiver in North York and the GTA, Care 2000 offers experienced and compassionate nurses to assist you and your loved one through all phases of dementia. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.