Long Beach Senior Home Care Blog

6 Dementia Communication Tips for Caregivers

By Stacy Sanchez

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6 Dementia Communication Tips for Caregivers


Caring for someone who has dementia is hard for both the family and the caregivers, especially if the condition is similar to Alzheimer’s or other disorders that affect the brain and affects the individual’s cognitive functions and behavior. Since the condition can lead to mood swings or even personality changes, it can take its toll on you. Here are some ways to communicate with people who have this condition.

Set the Right Mood
Working on your communication skills is going to reduce the stress you deal with and enhance your relationship. Communication is also crucial when dealing with difficult behavior.

Start by setting the right mood as your body language and attitude conveys your emotions and thoughts. This means your body language and the manner which you speak must be respectful and pleasant. Displaying feelings of affection, physical touch and the tone of your voice goes far towards establishing rapport.

Eliminate Distractions
If you need to talk to them, do away with the distractions: turn off the TV, close the door, shut off the radio etc. Before you talk to them, be certain you have their attention. Address them by their name and state your name and your relation. Speak clearly and by using nonverbal cues, you can help them focus. If the person is sitting down for instance, maintain eye contact.

Speak Clearly
Speak clearly and state your message using simple sentences and words. Home health aides talk to in a reassuring voice, slowly and distinctly. Don’t raise your voice and speak in a lower tone, but not so much they won’t understand what you’re trying to say.

If your loved one doesn’t understand what you said, repeat your question or message using the same words. If they still can’t comprehend, wait for five minutes or so and repeat yourself but this time rephrase the message. During your conversations, use names of people and places rather than pronouns.

Ask questions they can easily answer and do so one at a time. Avoid asking open ended questions or those that have multiple choices. Questions like “Do you want to drink juice or milk?” are ideal. You can also provide visual cues; rather than just ask if he/she wants to wear a blue or green shirt, show the shirts.

Be Patient
Home care is all about selflessness and being patient especially if your loved one has a brain disorder similar to Alzheimer’s. You have to be patient while waiting for their response. Don’t just listen with your ears but your eyes and mind as well. It’s all right to suggest words if it seems like they’re trying to say something.

You should also check their body language and nonverbal clues because it might be their way of responding. Keep an eye on these and respond accordingly. While you’re at it, listen to the emotion and feelings being conveyed in their words.

How to Manage Daily Routines

Senior care will be easier if you break down the daily tasks so they’re easier to manage. You may encourage them to do what they can on their own and provide assistance when necessary. Rather than make them feel totally dependent on you –which could lead to resentment or a feeling of helplessness on their part – you will be there to remind them and help in matters they can’t do alone anymore. This doesn’t need to be complicated or always verbal: you can use your hand to show them where to put the plate, for example.

Handling Difficult Behavior
If your loved one gets upset or irritated, try to get their attention and redirect their focus. If you sense they’re getting agitated, change the topic and or move them to another part of the house. Or you could ask them to do something with you like taking a stroll. Before redirecting, let them know you know they’re upset. Say something like “I’m sorry you’re feeling angry/sad/upset. Why don’t we go eat/walk/talk about this or that?”

As an in-home care specialist, you must always speak to them in a reassuring voice and with affection. These people are often unsure, confused and even “remember” things they didn’t do or say or never happened. Don’t contradict them and just focus on expressing love and support.

Home Helpers of Long Beach is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, Alzheimer's & dementia care as well as homemaker services in Long Beach, and East Long Beach.