Remaining Social With a Loved One Experiencing Dementia
When you care for a loved one with dementia, staying social and maintaining good communication is one of many challenges. People with this progressive disorder have trouble thinking clearly and communicating with others. They can have mood swings and changes in their behaviors and personalities as well.
These symptoms only get worse as the disorder progresses, making their ability to socialize and communicate more difficult. Because of that, it’s important to know how to remain social with loved ones who experience dementia. Below are seven tips that will help.
1. Get Their Attention
Before you start each conversation, address individuals with dementia by name. Use nonverbal cues to grab their attention, such as touching one of their arms, hands, or shoulders. Remove distractions by turning off or setting aside entertainment or by finding a quiet place. Also, make sure that your identity is known, including your name and relation to them.
2. Stay Positive and Humorous
Your body language and attitude communicate your thoughts and feelings more than using words alone. Use a positive and respectful tone when you speak to loved ones with dementia. Convey your message and feelings with facial expressions and physical touch. When possible, use humor to lift their spirits.
3. Use Plain, Clear Speech
During conversations, use common words and simple sentences. Make sure that your speech is distinct and slow, and maintain eye contact while you talk.
Avoid raising your voice, and be prepared to repeat what you say in case they don’t understand it the first time. If they still don’t understand, try rephrasing your sentence or using objects to make it more clear. Sticking to yes and no questions is particularly helpful.
4. Talk About Distant, Past Life Events
In most cases, people with dementia have trouble with short-term memories, and trying to remember can make them frustrated. Instead, reminiscing about past life experiences is often a soothing social activity.
Try focusing general conversations on their distant past while sharing related photos, songs and videos.
5. Listen With More Than Your Ears
When individuals with dementia speak to you, do more than just listen. Maintain eye contact, and take an interest in what they say. If you’re waiting for them to reply to a question, be patient.
Use their body language and nonverbal cues to determine how to interact. For instance, it’s OK to suggest words if they’re struggling to find the right ones.
6. Respond With Comfort and Support
Anxiety, confusion, forgetfulness, and uncertainty are common among people with dementia, so emotional outbursts are possible. It’s crucial during these times that your response is comforting and supportive so that they feel reassured. For emotional outbursts, try changing the environment or subject to dissipate the situation.
7. Encourage Social Activities
To stay social with loved ones who experience dementia, and help them be social with others, encourage their participation in group activities. Book clubs, drama groups, art classes, dance classes and walking groups are just a few examples. Simply singing together is a social activity that improves mood and overall well-being.
Using these tips, you can retain good communication and relationships with elderly family members who suffer from dementia. If you ever need a break, consider hiring a certified in-home caregiver through Caring Home Care. Our CNAs and HHAs can provide recreational activities that keep your loved ones social and active.