Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are very serious and often devastating diseases for seniors. Those affected often fall into depression, long-term apathy and lose themselves in the illness. Living with someone with dementia is not an easy experience because dementia patients are also often extremely sensitive and their reactions are not always predictable.
This is why it is so important to know how to talk to someone dealing with dementia. How to talk to someone with dementia? What should you not say to someone with dementia so as not to hurt their feelings or make the condition worse? Should you correct someone with dementia? We will talk about all this today.
How to talk to someone with dementia?
Wondering how to talk to someone with dementia? Not sure if you should correct someone with dementia? No worries, these are very legitimate questions to which we have the answers! Communicating with dementia patients in old age can be difficult and emotionally draining for both parties. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can make your interlocutor’s statements make little sense to you, be inappropriate or uncomfortable, or even irritating.
However, the basic rule of communicating with dementia patients is to remain calm. It is important for caregivers of the elderly to always respond with patience and not get drawn into unnecessary discussions. It is important to adapt to the senior’s behaviour and understand that their condition does not change who they are, and try to keep a distance from what they say. Now let’s get down to specifics, or what you should not say to someone with dementia.
Useful tips when communicating with dementia patient
Talking to someone with dementia will not be so difficult if you remember a few basic rules. Here are some basic tips for communicating with someone dealing with dementia.
- Try to sit at the same height as the person with dementia.
- Call the person with dementia by their first name at the beginning and during the conversation to keep their attention.
- Give only short, one sentence explanations and answers that dementia patient could comprehend.
- Repeat speech if unsure if the person with dementia has heard or understood.
- Gently remind them what you were talking about, e.g. “You were just telling me about…”.
- Agree with person dealing with dementia or distract them with a different topic or activity.
- Repeat instructions or sentences exactly the same way each time.
- Leave the room, if necessary, to avoid confrontations.
- Introduce the subject, e.g. I’d like to talk about your brother Albert…
- Accept the blame when something’s wrong.
How to talk to someone with dementia – basic mistakes
Having defined how to talk to someone with dementia, we thought it appropriate to generally characterize the basic mistakes in communicating with dementia patients. One of the most common mistakes made by carers living with someone with dementia when communicating with a dementia patient is to expect them to react in a similar way to a healthy person and in a conventional and accepted way.
While taking care of someone dealing with dementia, we have to be prepared for non-standard and antisocial behaviour, to which we can only react with calmness and not address the patient in a condescending way as if we were talking to a small child. When talking to a person dealing with dementia, never raise your voice or shout, or show anger or impatience. Neither should we rush the sick person when they speak, nor should we interrupt them or ask them complex questions or instructions, as they will not be able to understand or remember them, which may provoke negative emotions.
20 things to avoid when talking to someone with dementia
- You have just asked me that.
- Can’t you figure out what to do?
- You don’t go to work anymore.
- Your mother died a long time ago.
- Don’t you remember?
- Your brother/father/friend died 10 years ago.
- What did you do this morning?
- You have forgotten again.
- I have already told you.
- Do you need some help with that, love?
- Wait a minute.
- Stop it.
- Do you remember me?
- Let’s have a cup of coffee now, then after that we can go for a lunch in that café, then… then… then… – too much information.
- You’re wrong.
- I told you…
- Your memory is getting worse.
- You do not know that woman.
- You do not remember anything!
- You are like a child!
How to talk to someone with dementia?
In conclusion, we would like to emphasise once again how important it is to remain calm when communicating with a person with dementia. It is advisable to talk in a calm manner and not to take anything said by the person too personally, especially if said in nervousness. In such situations, avoid confrontation, or showing that the person is inferior or not clever enough. Remember that the person with dementia is just like you, but much more vulnerable.
That’s all we had to say about communicating with a person with dementia. Please also read our article on activities and ways to improve memory for people with dementia and more available on our blog!