5 Ways to Enhance Communication with Seniors with Dementia

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As dementia progresses, the condition can make it difficult for seniors to listen and carry on conversations, which could result in frustration and negative behaviors. However, discussions and daily life in general can go better with a little patience and good communication strategies in place. Here are some tips you can use when talking to a senior loved one with dementia. 


1. Eliminate Distractions

Background noises can make it difficult for seniors with dementia to concentrate, and your loved one may not be able to focus solely on your conversation. Turn off all radios, televisions, and cell phone alerts while you’re communicating. If you have windows or doors open, shut them to minimize the noise from traffic or people conversing outside. Eliminating distractions gives your loved one the ability to concentrate without getting angry and confused. 


2. Speak Clearly

If you talk in a low tone, your loved one may not be able to understand what you’re saying and become upset. Speak in an appropriate tone and precise manner. Don’t assume your loved one understood your statement. Instead, wait for a response and then move forward. When you ask too many questions, things could become unclear, and your loved one might panic or get flustered.

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3. Allow Time to Respond

It could take your parent a little longer to grasp what you’re saying, especially as dementia progresses and impacts areas of the brain responsible for processing and storing information. To alleviate some of the thinking and communication problems seniors with dementia experience, take your time when speaking and give your loved one a few moments to respond. Don’t move on with the conversation until he or she is ready. 

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4. Avoid Negative Words & Reactions

Negative tones and phrases from family caregivers can lead to behavioral problems for older adults with dementia. For instance, if you speak to your loved one in an annoyed tone, he or she might respond in the same manner. Remain respectful when asking questions or carrying on a normal conversation. Dementia is the cause of the comprehension and communication issues, and your loved one has no control over the situation. Instead of becoming upset when your loved one misunderstands, try to introduce a little humor into the conversation to enhance his or her mood.


5. Use Nonverbal Clues

Instead of repeating a statement, find another way to rephrase it, such as using nonverbal clues. For instance, you can point to the kitchen when you want to ask your loved one if he or she is ready to eat. During discussions about people, places, or things, you can point to pictures of those individuals and locations or bring up images of the objects on a computer or a smartphone. These nonverbal clues could make it easier for your loved one to comprehend and communicate. 

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