This is part two of a conversation in sharing best practices for improving communications with someone with dementia, as recommended by Dawn DeStefani. Dawn manages The George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Center in Chula Vista and recently presented these tips to caregivers at a forum sponsored by Partners in Caring of San Diego County.
Earlier we discussed how to be a great listener. Today we’ll discuss how to be a better communicator using words.
Set yourself up for success. Approach your loved one from the front to avoid startling her and starting off on the wrong foot.
Be aware of tone and body language. Although you are focused on what you say, your loved one will notice friendly gestures. Speak clearly in a relaxed tone of voice to put him at ease.
Keep it simple. Difficult words or long sentences may overwhelmed someone with Alzheimer’s.
Wait for a response. Remember the last post, when we recommended patience? Here’s where it can be displayed. Give your loved one more time to absorb what you’ve said and to respond.
Be clear. Avoid expressions that can be taken literally, like “have a seat,” which can be confusing.
Focus on the keyword or idea. Emphasize the most important word in your message either verbally or nonverbally (pointing).
Account for hearing or vision problems. Make sure your loved one is wearing a working hearing aid and clean glasses, if either or both are prescribed.
Don’t reason or argue. Resist the urge.
Avoid quizzing. Don’t test their memory with expressions like, “Don’t you remember ----“ It’s not helpful and increases their frustration.