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Communicating with Persons with Dementia Symptoms


Posted on October 1, 2009 by DementiaGuide

Dealing with Dementia Symptoms

Communication Tips for Caregivers

As dementia symptoms progress, it becomes more difficult for individuals to express themselves. It also becomes for difficult for them to understand what is being communicated to them. This inevitable break down in communication can be a great cause of stress and frustration. In order to enhance communication as dementia symptoms grow, try the following tips:

  • Speak slowly, at a normal level, using a low-pitched voice. In addition, try to face the person with dementia symptoms when you are speaking to him or her. Speaking rapidly, loudly, or in a high-pitched voice can be overwhelming or upsetting for someone with dementia symptoms.
  • Use short, familiar words and simple sentences that clearly express what you want to say.
  • Allow the person with dementia symptoms sufficient time to respond. If he or she does not respond, it may be helpful to repeat your question using the same wording as before.
  • Ask only one question or give one direction at a time
  • Give positive instructions; avoid saying "don't" or giving negative commands. For example, instead of saying, "Don't go in that room," try saying, "Let's go over here."
  • Avoid questions that require a lot of thought, memory, and words, or that put the person "on the spot."
  • Avoid instructions that require someone with dementia symptoms to remember more than one action at a time. It will save both of you time and frustration in the long run if you break tasks down into smaller steps that are more manageable.
  • Avoid arguing or disagreeing with the person with dementia symptoms. In order for two people to "successfully" have an argument, both parties must be able to use reason and logic. Because dementia affects reason and logic, arguing is futile.
  • Redirection techniques can work wonders when other communication efforts are not sucessful. Because of the short-term memory loss associated with dementia, the person will often move on to the new activity and forget why he or she was upset in the first place.
  • Communication is often easier if the environment is calm, simple, safe, and quiet.

Keeping a consistent schedule or daily routine will help keep a person with symptoms of dementia from becoming agitated or restless; predictability can be calming and soothing. It may also be helpful to add memory cues around the home, such as pictures of key family members and friends with their phone numbers. You can also add picture labels on drawers or closets to identify where different items are kept. Reducing clutter and removing rugs or wires that could be tripping hazards will reduce the person's risk of falling. Finally, keeping the home well-lit using soft natural light is also helpful. Avoid fluorescent lights, which can agitate people with dementia symptoms.

Communication with a person with dementia symptoms can be challenging. Keeping communication as calm and simple as possible will likely yield better results and reduce some of the stress involved.

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