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Dementia Communication Techniques

Do you sometimes struggle to find the right word when conversing with a friend? Most times your friend will try to help by suggesting a word. However, this type of help will only cause more confusion to a person with dementia.

Here are a few suggestions on how to communicate with a person diagnosed with dementia:

Patience: give them time to think
You want to get yourself comfortable with pauses so that you don’t rush them. They need time to figure out the word they are looking for on their own. If you suggest a word you are now triggering their brain to think of that word, and it may not be the correct word for them.

Repeat back
If the person continues to struggle to find the right word, repeat back what you heard them say. This “repeat back” method can help as they are hearing what was said, and now can continue their thought.

This or something else?
If the person continues to struggle to find the right word, offer help by asking questions such as are you looking for your toothbrush or something else? The phrase “something else” is less distracting than lots of word choices. Now they can say the words “something else” back to you if the toothbrush is not the thing they want.

Tell me more
Try to figure out what the person wants by asking the question “can you tell me more about it?” If they can’t find the word, maybe they can find the description and you can figure out what they are looking for.

Show them
Pointing to an object helps increase understanding. For example, ask “would you like a cup of tea?” (while you show them the teacup) “or something else?” Being able to see the object helps the brain to process the question. This is especially true of bilingual people with dementia as they have two vocabulary sets to sort through. Visual cues will be very helpful to bilingual people.

This is a new way of communicating and it will take time to become good at it. Don’t worry if you make mistakes at first; keep practising!

Ref: Positive Approach to Care. https://teepasnow.com