Dementia – a progressive brain disease isn’t only challenging for the patient but can also be frustrating for family members and paid elderly companions.
A person suffering from dementia may struggle to follow a conversation or find it hard to carry out routine tasks. Besides that, he or she may also have difficulty concentrating, recognizing or memorizing things, and more.
Because of these barriers, communicating with a person living with dementia should follow recommended guidelines. Family members and caregivers should use appropriate words and also avoid speaking down to them.
We have created this post to help you know the things you should NOT do or say to someone living with dementia.
Do not argue
If your father says that he used to study in a school you never heard of, you can say ‘Oh, I’d probably forgotten that’ instead of arguing that you have never seen or heard of it before.
The thing is, being right doesn’t matter much, especially when you’re dealing with someone living with dementia. Arguing with a patient may yield negative results. You don’t want that.
It is definitely better to go along for the ride instead of disagreeing and fighting back.
Avoid using idioms and abstract speech
The biggest issue with dementia is that the patient’s condition worsens over time. Usually, the person living with it will have difficulty understanding what the caregiver or even a close family member is trying to say.
Using idioms, abstract speech, or any slang would add up to the confusion. Most of the time, the patient will take such statements literally.
For example, instead of saying ‘it’s useless to cry over spilled milk,’ you should say ‘one should take timely action to avoid disappointments.’
So, use clear and concise language and try to avoid idioms and slang as much as possible.
Don’t ask them to remember
Memory loss is one of the biggest symptoms of dementia. While it seems natural for caregivers and close family members to reminisce with the senior, doing so can cause more problems than you think.
Because they may not remember the actual event, asking them to recall information causes anxiety and depression.
Instead of asking seniors to recall different things and events, you can make statements. For instance, you can say,’ we all had a great time last year when we visited the beach together.’ Alternatively, you can leave the conversation open. For example, you can say, ‘I’d like to know about your favorite things to do when you are on the beach.’
Avoid using multiple commands
We often combine multiple commands in a single sentence when communicating with our family members. For example, dress up, take your snacks, and we will go shopping.
But because seniors living with dementia have a hard time processing numerous directions, you should stick to one command at a time.
For example, ‘change your dress.’
Once a person gets dressed, you can talk in another direction, ‘eat your snack.’ And ‘let’s go shopping.’
Besides that, here are a few things you should never say to a dementia patient.
Never say ‘you’re embarrassing me’
As a caregiver, you need to understand that people with dementia aren’t giving you a hard time. It is them who’s having a hard time. If they’re overreacting in a mall or show anger, they just simply can’t help it. So, be patient. Listen to them and treat them with love. Never tell them or show them that you’re feeling embarrassed because of them. Use a calm tone and put the blame on yourself if need be.
Never criticize for their words
People living with dementia may have a hard time with words. That is why they make mistakes – In fact, some of them make a lot of them. But that doesn’t mean you start criticizing them for something that is beyond their control. Empathize with them and shower your affection. If they want to call an apple an orange, let it be. Make it easy for them.
Never say make it quick’
You have waited for the entire month for your mom’s appointment to see the doctor. But what if she’s stressed or in a fearful mode on that very specific day?
Do not try to impose your decisions on her. First, calm yourself down and take time to sit and comfort her. In most cases, this works. If not, cancel your plan and hope for a better day.
Your Patience is Gold
Communicating with someone struggling with dementia can be challenging. But it is your patience, determination, and above all, love that can make all the difference.
Choose your words carefully and try to accommodate things as much as possible. After all, your body language, tone, and words can say it all.
All the best 🙂