Dementia is a progressive condition that can eventually affect a person’s ability to communicate. Trouble with language abilities is often a first sign of dementia. Despite this obstacle to effortlessness communication, loved ones can still enjoy fun conversations with dementia patients.
How does dementia affect speech?
Dementias, like Alzheimer’s disease, are a result of damaged brain cells. As the condition progresses, the patient begins to experience what is known as aphasia, a term which describes the loss of one’s ability to speak and comprehend speech. Aphasia worsens as dementia progresses.
Dementia advances in stages, from early to mid to late stage dementia. In the early stages of dementia, seniors may occasionally forget a word or use the wrong word in a conversation. Upon interruption, the dementia patient finds it difficult to resume the conversation.
Although most people occasionally experience hiccups in communication, in dementia patients, it is far more noticeable. The senior with dementia will be unable to recall words or learn new phrases. The meanings of common expressions and slang are also too difficult to remember.
The meanings of words also become confused in the senior with dementia. The patient may refer to a watch as “that thing that tells time”. Grasping multiple concepts at once is challenging, so they jump from topic to topic without completing a thought or sentence.
Language comprehension is also affected. The words entering the brain of a dementia patient are as jumbled as the words they speak. Seniors with dementia find it difficult to follow a person who speaks with an accent, a high-pitched voice or uses complex language.
How should someone set the stage for conversation?
Loved ones should first prepare the environment for conversation with a dementia patient. A quiet place without distractions is ideal. Sit at eye level with the senior and remain in clear view. Body language should be open and relaxed. If feeling rushed, begin the conversation after calming down.
What are the best ways to speak?
Communicating with a dementia patient requires some adjustments. Speech should be clear and calm. Speaking at a slow pace allows the senior time to process what has been said. Short, simple sentences are best. Remember that asking too many questions sounds like an interrogation.
Avoid using a childlike voice to speak with a senior living with dementia; rather, show respect to the individual. Adaptations to the manner of speech will allow the family member to include the senior in conversations with others, which helps the senior feel valued and lessens isolation.
When should you ask yes or no questions?
Questions that require a yes or no answer should be presented to the dementia patient, especially when seeking information. Asking open-ended questions, in certain scenarios, can be overwhelming, since the senior must consider all the options to arrive at a decision.
For instance, a family member who aims to start a conversation might ask the senior if he’d first like a cup of tea or coffee. A straightforward question that requires a simple yes or no answer is unlikely to overwhelm the dementia patient.
When are open-ended questions ideal?
Once the scene is set for a pleasant conversation, begin the talk. Connect with the senior by asking open-ended questions. Keep in mind that, for dementia patients, long-term memories are more easily accessed than short-term ones. Discussing old times, for instance, is enjoyable for them.
Since dementia patients are better able to retrieve past memories, they are likely to find joy in talking about their families, friends and childhood memories. Loved ones might ask the senior to tell them about a son or daughter, a family pet or childhood hobbies.
Should you avoid asking about specific past events?
As soon as the senior starts chatting about the good times, it may be tempting to ask if he recalls a particular person or event. Refrain from asking about specifics, since doing so may feel like a test to the dementia patient; the senior may respond with agitation or anxiety.
What are light and easy ways to communicate?
Asking for opinions is an easeful way to have a fun conversation with a dementia patient. A family member or caregiver may ask the senior his opinion about a musical melody or a painting. Answers to such questions have no right or wrong answer, which encourages self-confidence in the senior.
Raising the senior’s past accomplishments also lends to a pleasurable talk. If the elderly individual had started his own company, been an excellent cook or built birdhouses from scratch, bringing up these achievements amidst conversation will do wonders to promote self-esteem in the senior.
Should you discuss current interests?
Although the brains of seniors with dementia are more readily able to recollect past memories rather than recent ones, asking about the current news, the weather or the day’s afternoon of digging in the garden is perfectly acceptable and can lead to an agreeable conversation.
While dementia adversely affects a person’s ability to communicate, family members can still enjoy the company of the senior. Since dementia is a progressive condition and will only worsen with time, it is important to make sure the senior is well-cared for by a caregiver from Assisting Hands Home Care.
As a premier home care agency prepared to meet the non-medical needs of seniors, Assisting Hands Home Care is staffed with a team of qualified memory care providers. We ensure that our care recipients suffering from dementia continue to live safely in the comfort of their homes.
When dementia causes the senior to wander, experience incontinence, become agitated or simply forget how to perform daily routines, an Assisting Hands Home Care dementia caregiver will gently guide the individual to safety, provide discreet assistance or skillfully calm him down.
Families with senior loved ones living in Brookfield, Wisconsin, turn to Assisting Hands Home Care for the most compassionate dementia care available. Our care plans are flexible and will accommodate changes to care needs as the dementia progresses. Call us at (262) 753-6652 for a free in-home assessment.
Sources: https://thegreenfields.org/things-to-say-alzheimers/, https://www.weatherlyinn.com/blog/conversation-starters-for-seniors-with-dementia, https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/symptoms/tips-for-communicating-dementia, https://www.dementiacarecentral.com/caregiverinfo/communication-problems/