Dementia makes it harder for people to concentrate and they may be unable to hold multiple ideas in their minds during conversation. Unfortunately, the distractions and stresses that often occur with hospital admissions or group care settings can make communication more difficult.
Here are some helpful tips for speaking to people living with dementia that can make communication much more effective.
Talk with the person
Don’t assume that people living with dementia can’t understand you, and that you need to talk to their carer, family member or friend instead. This is a form of discrimination which can make the person feel excluded and isolated and may make the person less open to communicate with you.
Be calm and gentle
Always talk in a calm and gentle manner and be caring and empathetic. Don’t be patronising or get frustrated with the person – even if they have trouble understanding what you say, they will pick up on your tone of voice.
Speak clearly and avoid complicated language and jargon. It helps to use short sentences, communicating only one idea at a time. Breaking down information and providing it in smaller chunks can also help the person to process it more easily. Closed questions (with yes/no answers) with a focused context will usually be easier for the person to understand – such as “Wasn’t it nice and sunny on our walk yesterday?”
Connect with the person’s carer
It can be helpful to separately connect and communicate important information to the person’s carer. This will enable the person to clarify important medical information with someone they know and trust. Ask the person’s carer for helpful information that can support positive communication.
Minimise distractions and disruptions
It’s important to get rid of potential distractions and disruptions when speaking with people living with dementia, to make sure they can concentrate. Avoid moving around while speaking to the person – sit still and stay in their line of vision. Make sure the TV or radio is switched off and there are no competing conversations within earshot.
Want to learn more about dementia? Go to our Resources section for guides, help sheets, videos and other resources.