This is one of my favorite quotes:
“To the world, you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.”
– Dr. Seuss
A caregiver for a person with dementia is the most important person in their life. Communication, however, can be a daunting task for both the patient and the caregiver. A person with dementia cannot communicate in the same way as you or I, but they have their own unique ways of communicating how important their caregiver is to them.
I have witnessed first-hand how straining communication can be on family members and professional caregivers, too. To effectively communicate, you must first arrive at this conclusion: you cannot fix or change the fact that your patient or loved one has dementia. With this fact understood, you can then turn your attention to how best to care for them.
Here are some of the things I have learned for communicating with someone with dementia:
- Gain the person’s attention THEN speak to him or her.
- Call them by their first name.
- Since patients with dementia are what I call “process challenged,” show composure and understanding when waiting for them to respond.
- Use simple words and short phrases, but rephrase if it is ineffective.
- Actions are louder than words! Don’t over-talk to them and avoid repeating yourself too much.
- Limited background noise is best.
- Do not take what they say personally.
- Do not take a smile to be an affirmative answer to a question as it may just be a sign of anxiety.
Using these communication tips to build meaningful moments will bring you more and more success. Remember to show your love for the dementia sufferer even when they are unable to show it to you.
You are the most important person in the world to them.