01 May Ten tips for speaking to somebody with Dementia
Did you know that 17th May – 23rd May marks Dementia Action Week? In this blog, we’re sharing some tips on how to speak to somebody with dementia.
Dementia results in a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills; impacting 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 in the UK. 70% of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems. There are over 42,000 people under 65 with dementia in the UK and every day, almost 600 people in the UK develop dementia. Now more than ever, it’s important to keep communicating (even if we can’t always do that in person). People with dementia might not understand the current climate or the impact of the coronavirus, so it’s important to remain patient and try and reassure them.
Here are our top tips for speaking to somebody with dementia:
1. Set a positive mood for interaction. Your attitude and body language communicate your feelings and thoughts more strongly than your words do.
2. Get the person’s attention. Limit distractions and noise—turn off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings.
3. Speak slowly and clearly. Speak slowly, distinctly, and in a reassuring tone. Don’t rush and allow yourself plenty of time, so your loved one feels calmer.
4. Use simple words and sentences. You should state your message clearly by using short, clear sentences. You could also try asking simple, answerable questions. Ask one question at a time; those with yes or no answers tend to work best.
5. Be patient. Especially when waiting for your loved one’s reply.
6. Respond with affection and reassurance. People with dementia often feel confused, anxious, and unsure of themselves. You can respond with praise and reassurance.
7. If things become difficult, use distraction. If your loved one becomes upset or agitated, try changing the subject.
8. Remembering the past. Remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. Many people with dementia may not remember what happened 45 minutes ago, but they may recall their lives 45 years earlier. Therefore, avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, such as asking the person what they had for lunch. Instead, try asking 1 or 2 questions about the person’s distant past—this information is more likely to be retained.
9. Try music or singing – Singing is a great way to communicate. If you are struggling to hold a simple conversation, try singing your loved one’s favourite song. Even if they don’t remember they will enjoy the music (even if you feel a bit silly)! Playing music and listening together can also be soothing.
10. Maintain your sense of humour – smiling is infectious, no matter what you’re talking about. Humour can help to bring you closer together, and may relieve the pressure.
We’d also like to share this great article from The Alzheimer’s society which provides more detail around how to communicate with somebody who has dementia, including what not to say:
We understand that this is a difficult time for everybody and we’d like to reassure you that we are doing all we can to keep everybody safe and well at The Priory, whilst offering regular reassurance and words of comfort. We are also keeping everybody entertained with our daily activities. If you have any questions or any concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.