Communicating with people with dementia
Our identity is closely linked to our language and our need to express what we feel and think. It is almost impossible to imagine the development of an identity as human beings where we have not been allowed to reflect on each other. Who we are as a person is created primarily in communication with others.
Even though most people are born with the conditions to express themselves with sound and to perceive their surroundings, the ability to communicate is still something learned. It is a skill we acquire and develop during our lives but which can also be completely or partially lost. In dementia, the ability for both verbal and non-verbal communication deteriorates as the disease progresses and makes it difficult for the sufferer to get confirmation from the environment. This becomes an imminent threat to the person's identity and can lead to a feeling of loneliness and being left to himself and his fate.
Helping a person with dementia to communicate is therefore an equally important and challenging task. It is easy to feel powerless and inadequate, both as a relative and as a healthcare professional, and it can also lead to feelings of irritation and antipathy towards the victim. Communicating with a person with dementia therefore requires both patience and understanding, and not least that you are a good listener.