If you live with the elderly or interact regularly with older people, you may know someone suffering from dementia. While dementia may start out barely noticeable, it certainly doesn’t stay that way. After a while, it can feel as though we’ve completely lost who our loved ones used to be.
Though it can be scary for us, it is even more challenging for them. That’s why we want to make sure that when we communicate with those with dementia, we are making things as clear and reassuring for them as possible.
While dealing with dementia sufferers can be confusing, it doesn’t have to be terrible. It can be rewarding to learn how to communicate with your affected loved ones and help ease their loneliness.
Why Is It Harder to Communicate With Dementia Patients?
There are some obvious answers to why it can be hard to communicate with your loved ones with dementia. Sometimes, they may be confused about facts, times, or even what they have been doing. However, there can be difficulties on a more basic level as well.
The Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Society list some common issues that people with dementia may have in communicating:
- Difficulty remembering words
- Replacing words with gibberish
- Difficulty keeping track of their speech
- Repeating themselves
- Jumbling phases
- Describing things rather than using the word
- Creating their own words for things
- Speaking less
- Difficulty understanding
Some of these communication issues may be new information for you, and that’s alright. There are so many health concerns that it can be hard to stay up to date on all the health information no matter how much you would like to.
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How to Communicate With Your Loved Ones With Dementia – And the Benefits
While having a loved one with dementia will require some changes to how you communicate with them, it doesn’t have to be negative. In fact, for every tip I give on improving your interaction with a dementia patient, there is a joyful experience awaiting you.
Listen to Communicate
Often, it can take dementia patients time to gather their thoughts or find the word they’re looking for. They may find the word after a while or they may not. When we say it’s important to listen, the first step of communicating is to patiently do so.
Take the time to actively listen to what your loved one with dementia is saying. Sometimes, the contextual clues from the rest of the sentence will help you understand what they are saying, even if they miss or change a word. 
For many of us, our parts in a conversation are divided into “talking” and “waiting for our turn to talk.” We’ve all talked to a friend or family member and watched them just nod along without really listening. The kind of active listening we need to communicate with someone with dementia requires us to really focus on what the person is saying. This lets us have a much more meaningful conversation.
Watch Your Body Language
Experts at the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Society say that body language is one of the most important tools to communicate effectively with those suffering from dementia. They may find it easier to pick up on non-verbal cues.
Experts recommend that you keep your body posture both open and relaxed, facing the person with dementia directly. Also, when possible, use gestures to help illustrate your speech – for example, by pointing to an object of discussion.
On the other hand, observing their body language can give you clues about their state of mind. When observing the body language of a loved one with dementia, look for indicators of discomfort, such as tensing, fidgeting, or becoming agitated. [1, 2]
Conventional wisdom states that only 7% of what you communicate in any conversation is words. 55% is being communicated by your body. 
When you are being conscientious about your own body language, you can develop a better relationship with your resting body. How do you sit when talking to someone? What is the expression on your face? Sometimes, we can be giving out negative vibes when we try to communicate, even if it’s unintentional.
Furthermore, learning to acutely focus on your loved one with dementia can help you learn how to read people in other situations. While someone with dementia may be more likely to unguardedly communicate with their body, learning what to look for is a valuable skill in your own day-to-day interactions.
Remove All Distractions
Outside factors like radio, TV, music, or other media can make it hard to communicate with someone with dementia. Not only will they be distracted by them, but it also makes it harder for you to hear and give your full focus to the person with dementia. Turn them off or go to a quiet place for your conversation. [1, 2, 4]
Unfortunately, multitasking in our society has become very commonplace. How many times have you sent a quick text during coffee with your friend or browsed the web while on the phone with your mother-in-law?
The necessity of paying full attention to someone with dementia is undeniable. They are already struggling to communicate, so being as invested and at the moment as possible allows you to be there for them. However, being fully present when we communicate with people without dementia is just as important.
A little empathy goes a long way when communicating with someone with dementia. Try it, and you’ll notice a difference.
Learn More About Dementia
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