Communication often becomes more difficult as dementia symptoms worsen so when you’re visiting a loved one in a care home setting it can feel daunting knowing how to behave and what to say.
To help put both you and your loved one more at ease, try these 6 simple tips to remove the stress, improve communication and make your visit more enjoyable for everyone.
Keep a positive attitude
When you are tense and uptight, it’s likely your loved one will pick up on this. People with dementia often have an increased sensitivity to other people’s emotions and feelings so stay positive and try to be cheerful. Remember a smile can take the edge off any situation!
Make sure you get your loved one’s attention first
Before speaking make sure you establish eye contact, address them by name and use non-verbal clues to keep them focussed. It’s a good idea to get down to their level if they are seated, and try whenever possible to find a quiet spot where background noise and distraction can be reduced.
Speak clearly and slowly, using shorter sentences
It’s tricky to break out of that habit of mumbling or rambling on, but it’s crucial to do so! Speak up, articulate well and use short sentences. This will make it much easier for your loved one to follow the conversation and join in. Be prepared to repeat your message or question if they need time to process and understand it, and be patient in waiting for their reply – you don’t want them to feel pressurised by trying to speed up their reply.
Be respectful of their feelings
Be careful not to speak down to your loved one or end up talking to them as you would a child. They’re still the same person you know, they just now have some new difficulties. Never ridicule what they say – instead acknowledge their answer (even if it seems out of context) and try to listen for the meaning and feelings that underlie their words.
Don’t panic if there are silences
It might feel awkward for you, but many people with dementia don’t actually notice the silence. Communication isn’t just about talking! Body language, tone of voice and physical contact all become particularly important when someone has difficulty understanding words. A friendly tone of voice, holding hands and of course a smile will all go a long way to provide reassurance and help make the visit an enjoyable one for you both.