If you are caring for a loved one experiencing the progressive impact of Dementia, you may find yourself feeling at a loss when it comes to communication. For both you and the sufferer in your care, increasingly discovering difficulty where conversation used to flow freely can be both frustrating and distressing. Thankfully, there are simple tactics that you can incorporate to ease the flow of information and reinforce your sense of connection. While science has sadly not yet illuminated the means to halt the progression of cognitive decline, we hope that these tips will help you and your loved one feel a little more at ease along the way.
Setting the Scene for Caring Communication
While your loved one might struggle to follow your train of thought or find the right words to convey their feelings, they may simultaneously have a heightened awareness of the non-verbal cues around them. This makes taking a moment to slow down and tap into a calm state of mind all the more important when initiating a conversation. Not only will taking a deep breath and unwinding help your loved one feel less stressed when you interact, but it will also go a long way to helping you remain relaxed too.
Checking that your body language is positive and open and that your facial expression is warm will help you to set a conducive scene. Minimise distractions by turning down the radio or asking other household members to pause their conversation for a moment. Try not to take your loved one by surprise, and take care to speak with a normal tone and gentle rhythm. By avoiding appearing rushed or sliding into a combative tone, you will hopefully find that your loved one mirrors your signals and remains calm too. If you discover that they are experiencing difficult emotions, your own demeanor can assist in diffusing and soothing the situation.
Choose Language That Will Make Understanding Easier
Pausing to reflect on what you are trying to say and then choosing the most direct route to the point can be incredibly helpful when speaking with a dementia sufferer. For them, following a long-winded explanation can make it increasingly difficult to keep track of the topic at hand, creating stress and confusion for you both. Opting for simple vocabulary and using familiar names can make following along far more manageable. For example, avoiding “he”, “she” and “it” as your conversation continues, choosing instead to repeat the person, or object’s name can help your loved one to keep track.
Just as the dementia sufferer in your care may find following conversation a challenge, sharing their own thoughts and feelings can also pose as a stumbling block. Framing your questions to accommodate simple one-word answers can simplify the process. You might choose to ask questions in a way that requires only a “yes” or “no” answer, rather than a question such as “what would you like for lunch today?” Instead, try presenting two options, such as “would you like tuna, or ham for lunch today?” Keeping dialogue brief and opening with a smile, or sometimes simply leading the way with a friendly hand can make all the difference.
Recognise the Challenges at Hand
When communication breaks down, your loved one is likely to feel embarrassed or defensive. In these moments, holding on to the knowledge that their confusion can feel distressing, and that their reactions are not always a reflection on you can help you to remain calm. Even if their responses seem illogical, their emotions are very real, so try to avoid contradicting or correcting, instead making positively framed suggestions.
From time to time, you may also find that your loved one talks around what they are trying to say because the vital word or phrase is out of reach. Tuning into this challenge and being ready to interpret meanings can assist you both towards reaching an understanding. For example, they may use terms that have metaphorical relevance, and familiar phrases or emotions may act as signposts along the way. By taking your time, with patience and grace, to gather all the information that your loved one is able to share, you will both have a far better chance of landing on the same page.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all; do not forget to be kind to yourself! As a carer who is witnessing a loved one transform through Dementia, you are inevitably going to be faced with stress and potential feelings of frustration or anger. Such responses to taking on the role of carer are entirely normal, and you cannot expect yourself to react perfectly all the time. If you find yourself struggling, be sure to side-step allowing self-critical thoughts to take hold and forgive yourself when the day does not go as you had hoped. Reach out for support, and don’t be afraid to make the most of any help that is available. Caring for someone you love in this manner is both brave and selfless making your self-care along the way all the more vital.
The Benefits Of Professional Support
Professional care providers can offer support in a spectrum of ways. While your first thought of professional care might be full-time or live-in care, Heritage Independent Living can also provide peace of mind through a friendly face popping by for a few hours each day to help out with chores.
Sometimes, admitting loneliness or struggle is the hardest part – experiencing genuine and caring support can mean turning a corner into a brighter day.
Contact our friendly and knowledgeable team to discuss tailored care solutions to meet any need, be it large or small.