Teepa Snow and many others are exploring the complex world of communication with those living with dementia.
It’s a challenge, but you’ll be so excited if you break through. Here are 27 strategies to try from the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK. We’re all trying to break through.
Before you speak: If you are rushing or feeling stressed, take a moment to calm yourself.
Consider what you are going to talk about. It may be useful to have an idea for a particular topic ready, or to ask yourself what you want to achieve from the conversation.
Make sure you have the person’s full attention.
Make sure that the person can see you clearly.
Try to make eye contact. This will help the person focus on you.
Minimize competing noises, such as the radio, TV, or other people’s conversations.
How to Speak
Speak clearly and calmly.
Speak slowly, allowing time between sentences for the person to process the information and to respond. It might seem like an uncomfortable pause, but it is important for supporting the person to communicate.
Don’t speak sharply or raise your voice; it’s distressing.
Use short, simple sentences.
Don’t talk about people with dementia as if they are not there or talk to them as you would to a young child – show respect and patience.
Humour can help to bring you closer together, and may relieve the pressure. Try to laugh together about misunderstandings and mistakes – it can help.
Try to include the person in conversations with others. You may find this easier if you adapt the way you say things slightly. Being included in social groups can help a person with dementia to preserve their sense of identity. It can also help to reduce feelings of exclusion and isolation.