How to communicate with someone who has dementia

  
Trying to communicate effectively with a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging. Often caregivers find themselves struggling to make a meaningful connection with someone who is suffering with cognitive or memory disorders.
 
Watch this video for a few tips on how to approach communicating with a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s.
 
In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends various “compassionate communication” strategies that may help you to make a meaningful connection with someone who is struggling with cognitive or memory disorders. 
 
These five tips are included with information we share with families seeking treatment for loved ones at the Center for Cognitive and Memory Disorders at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.
 
Choose your words carefully.
 
Use simple and exact words and phrases. Break down all tasks into simple steps. Avoid using reasoning or logic. Don’t correct, argue or confront the person. Be supportive and let them know you are listening and trying to understand.
 
Avoid asking questions that rely on memory.
 
Avoid quizzing the person, or asking questions such as “Remember me?” or “Do you remember when?” Don’t remind them that they forget. And don’t take it personally when they can’t remember you.
 
Give visual clues.
 
Demonstrate by pointing, touching or beginning the task for the person. Encourage them to use gestures as well, and avoid sudden movements or gestures that could be perceived as threatening.
 
Be patient when waiting for a response.
 
The person may need extra time to process or encouragement to respond. Don’t interrupt. Offer comfort and reassurance.
 
Empathize with the person, instead of offering corrections.
 
Caregivers often make the mistake of trying to re-orient the person to reality, instead of simply empathizing. Focus on feelings instead of the facts, and don’t disagree with made-up stories. Re-orient to reality only if necessary for the person’s safety.
 
 
Dr. Douglas Scharre is director of the Division of Cognitive Neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute.
 

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