Keeping the lines of communication open during this time will become progressively more challenging. How you communicate with your loved one makes all the difference.
Education is Key
The more you understand how dementia affects your loved one the better communication will be. Various stages of memory loss require innovative approaches to have meaningful conversations as their world becomes smaller. A new way of communicating is necessary.
As you learn what to expect in each stage of dementia you will also find new ways to accommodate the changes your loved one is experiencing. Understanding the circumstances and disease helps to have effective and positive communication.
Meet Them Where They Are
Your loved one may be in denial after being diagnosed with dementia. This is common and talking about the diagnosis may be difficult. Put yourself in their shoes and become accustomed to this role. Remaining calm helps to minimize frustration for both of you. There is no need to argue issues. Simply do your best to maintain an open communication so your loved one feels safe and happy. Their world will become yours.
Practice the Three “Ps”
Patience, Patience, Patience. As memory loss progresses expect to hear the same questions or stories on a continual basis. Many times, one question is asked over and over in only a few minutes. Leave expectations behind, take a deep breath and try to be patient. Redirect your loved one’s attention to something else and be aware even this may not be effective.
Some days may seem perfectly “normal.” Other days may be grueling. Remember living with dementia is not easy for your loved one either. You may both feel frustration when they search for the right word or wear shoes on the wrong feet. Be patient. When you feel annoyance, try redirecting once more.
Use Active Listening Skills
Conversations may be difficult to follow, and you may be the one needing to repeat the question. At some point simply accept you are not going to understand. Go with the flow and be understanding.
Dementia patients see the world differently than we do. They often confuse reality with fantasy, today with yesterday and their younger years with their current age. Live in their moment and accept how they see the world.
Loss of Memory Does Not Equal Loss of Dignity
At certain times it is tempting to use basic, simple language, aka “baby talk.” You may be surprised to find your loved one does not appreciate your tone. Avoid being condescending in your approach and speak clearly in a warm, calm voice.
When your loved one indicates a topic is important to them focus on this specific conversation. Avoid distractions and zoom in on the topic. Take extra time to process what is being said. Be patient. When asking a question allow extra time for an answer.
When they are unable to remember who people are, it is helpful to use names instead of pronouns in conversations. State your name when greeting them. When others visit, use their names more than once. Be patient, loving and kind. Live in each moment and make the moment count.
Dementia brings significant changes in life. Bridge to Better Living helps navigate this unfamiliar world. We help families choose the most appropriate community, whether it is Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Assisted Living or Skilled Care. Contact Bridge to Better Living for help when your loved ones have a need to transition to a new and better way of living. We are with you every step of the journey.