Whether you’re caring for a person living with dementia or trying to talk to a loved one with the condition, it can be harder. It’s very common to worry about saying the wrong thing that might upset them or running out of things to talk about. No-one wants to end up frustrated or stuck repeating themselves in a conversation.
Don’t worry, you aren’t the only person facing these issues. We’ve created a list of things to keep in mind to help move the conversation along if you’re struggling.
Keeping yourself on their eye level – standing or sitting – means they can see your body and facial expressions. This makes it easier for them to read your body language. Smiling and making eye contact will help the person with dementia feel more comfortable. This means they’ll be more likely to chat with you, even if they’re not sure who you are.
Be careful bombarding them with questions. It can complicate the question and make the person confused. Some questions can be harder for them to answer than others. Try offering them a couple of options in a question rather than making it open ended. This can be as simple as offering a couple of choices for dinner rather than just asking “What do you want for dinner?”. It can also be helpful to show them their options, visual cues can help.
Obviously every person is different and some people do not like being touched (not just those living with dementia!). However, for those that are receptive, touch can be a very good form of communication. A simple pat on the shoulder or squeeze of the hand can say so much. It’s another way to let the person know they are safe and they can trust you.
If you’re struggling with getting the person talking, there are lots of visual aids you can use to start a conversation. Even something as simple as getting an old photo album out can start the ball rolling. If the person you’re trying to talk to is struggling to verbalise, you can also use picture cards to help them. There are a lot of tools out there that can help.
Don’t try to rush the person if they’re struggling, or try to speak for them. It can be easy to get frustrated with them, but try to relax and let them speak for themselves. Try and speak a little slower yourself and if you’ve said something that might be difficult to understand try re-wording it or saying it another way.
It’s important to pay attention to how the person you’re talking to is speaking. If they’re laughing and smiling it doesn’t matter if they’re struggling or what they’ve said isn’t quite right. Try to understand that the emotion the person is feeling can be more important than what they’re saying.
We mentioned your body language earlier, but what about theirs? Some people living with dementia find it difficult to verbalise their thoughts. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of communicating, though. Look for their facial expressions and body language to help you understand what they’re trying to let you know. Remember you can always use picture cards to help you.
Sometimes, accepting the person you’re trying to talk to wants some peace and quiet can be the case! Not everyone wants to chat all the time and some people find the quiet relaxing. You can always pop some of their favourite music on in the background and just enjoy each others company.
We hope this helps you start your conversations! If you would like to enquire about our care packages, contact us by clicking here.