How to Connect with Someone Living with Dementia
Caring for a loved one with dementia can be a challenging time for families and carers. Yet thinking about how you communicate can have a positive impact on their mood and wellbeing, as well as relieving the stress of care and improving your relationship with your loved one.
Effective communication will not only help somebody with dementia live well but also help you connect with them and deal with any challenging behaviours. Challenges may vary day to day, with the person living with the condition likely to have good and bad days. Common difficulties include struggling to find the right word, repeating words or phrases due to poor short-term memory and struggling with everyday tasks that were once easy for them.
When someone is not able to express themselves properly, or to understand their surroundings or even their own reflection, this leads to them feeling anxious and confused. These feelings can lead to the person becoming depressed and withdrawn or angry and frustrated. However, there is always a connection to be found with a variety of positive approaches:
- Communication – use simple short sentences and allow time for the person to process what has been said
- Avoid questions – a person with dementia may struggle to understand/remember the answer, avoid highlighting this
- Use emotions to connect – even if what they ‘say’ does not make sense take the lead from body language and engage on an emotional level
- Sensory triggers – often a person with dementia will have long-term memories that can be triggered by music, smell or images
- Redirection – repetition can be challenging for a carer, diverting attention to another activity can help minimise this
- Avoid correction – arguing or correcting a person with dementia is unlikely to have a positive outcome
- Minimise failure – simplify everyday tasks and use visual prompts to maintain skills and independence
- Reminisce – use objects or photo albums, visit familiar places to spark older memories
- Take time out – you can’t process your own loss and care for someone else if you are exhausted emotionally and physically
- Celebrate what remains – don’t focus on what is lost
Hazel Ashmore, Senior Myicro Manager at HFHC Healthcare comments “Caring for a person with dementia is incredibly hard, especially when that person is a loved one.
“It is crucial for the wellbeing of both parties that the carer has a number of different positive approaches that mean it is possible to live well with dementia.”
For some further tips and techniques watch Teepa Snow on YouTube or look at the following websites for advice and support:
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