Tips and advice for communication with people with dementia
Here are some short and solid tips and advice from the Swedish Dementia Center for you who meet people with dementia, either as a relative or as staff in care.
• Be supportive
Make sure that the person with dementia understands that you are listening and that you are trying to understand what he / she wants to say.
• Show interest
Make eye contact! Show that you are interested in what the person is saying.
• Show care
If the person has difficulty expressing themselves - show that it is ok. Encourage the person to keep telling.
• Avoid criticizing
Do not tell the person that he / she is expressing himself / herself incorrectly. Instead, listen and try to understand what the person wants to say. Repeat what the person is saying to clarify the message if possible.
• Avoid arguing
If the person says something you do not agree with, avoid saying no. Arguing usually makes the situation worse.
• Encourage body language
If you do not understand what the person means, ask him / her to show.
• Calm environment
Try to find a quiet environment where nothing interrupts communication. A calm environment helps the person to be focused on the message.
• Focus on emotions, not facts
Often the expressed feelings are more important than the factual message. Look for the emotions behind the words. Think about your own voice: tone of voice, tempo and how loud / low you speak.
What should I as a carer think about?
As the dementia disease progresses, the challenge for you as a caregiver increases. But communicating is still just as important, no matter how difficult it is. Sometimes the person with dementia does not return communication, but is still in need of this contact.
• Introduce yourself
Approach from the front so the person perceives that you are coming. Tell who you are.
• Use the person's name
This is not just out of politeness - it also helps the person to orient themselves and you get the person's attention.
• Use short sentences with simple words
Do not overwhelm the person with long stories. Use simple and clear language. Short sentences and stick to the topic.
• Speak clearly and slowly
Be aware of the speed you are using when speaking. Do you articulate clearly?
• Give an instruction in the roof
Break down a task into parts and give one instruction at a time: Switch on the tap. Take the soap. Soap your hands.
• Simple questions
When you ask something, ask questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no". Avoid questions with many answer options / choices.
Give the person time to find the right word, figure out an answer to your question, etc.
If the person does not answer; wait a minute. Then ask again.
• Turn questions into answers
Try to find an answer instead of asking a question: Say: "Here is the toilet" instead of "Do you need to go to the toilet?" Also avoid questions that the person cannot remember the answer to, such as: "What is your daughter's name now?"
• Avoid the word "not"
Instead of saying "Do not go there" say "Go here" and show where to go.
Reinforce an instruction by showing or helping the person to begin the activity, such as brushing their teeth.
• Become aware of yourself
Become aware of your body language, your tone of voice and how you use the language. It's good to see yourself on film!