Techniques to help you connect with a loved one suffering from dementia: part one

In the UK, there is an estimate of 850,000 people suffering from dementia. Specialists believe this figure will increase to one million by 2025, which is why knowing how to communicate with people with dementia is essential.

Outlined below is part one of 10 proven techniques to help you achieve this.

1.    Communicate clearly

One of the focal symptoms of dementia is struggling with communication. Therefore, speaking clearly, slowly and with confidence is essential. Moreover, ensure you are maintaining eye contact and a positive attitude – this can provide comfort to your loved one.

2.    Consider the environment

Noisy and intense environments, where too much is happening, can be overwhelming and confusing for people with dementia.

Choosing quieter and less busy places to assist your loved ones with their mundane activities can decrease their chances of becoming confused or distressed. For example, shopping on a weekday morning or evening may provide this.


3.    Consider your language

Conversing with loved ones is an essential part of connecting with them. But, if you ask too many questions, or jump from topic to topic, then it could become overwhelming for them. It could even cause them to become agitated and confused.

A good technique for this is to find a different route to the conversation, as you don’t want to ask a question that may intimidate and pressure them. Showing them a picture and asking, “Do you remember Aunt May?” could be changed to “Isn’t this a nice dress, what do you think?” From altering this question, it can enable your loved one to feel more in control over the conversation, thus making them feel more comfortable.

4.    Discuss their favourite topics

Begin with asking an open-ended question on a topic you know is a speciality of theirs. Not only does this allow the conversation to progress, but it won’t be one-sided. Meaning, the conversation could spark events, facts or memories to come back to your loved one.

5.    Encourage suitable activities and hobbies

Some of the best activities for people suffering from dementia are ones that stimulate their memory and thought process. Examples of these include colouring, completing crosswords and other puzzles, playing manageable board games and using suitable online applications.

The best hobbies to engage your loved ones with are ones that require their cognitive abilities – such as drawing, knitting, painting and even woodwork.

Painting by numbers is suitable as it doesn’t pressure them to create their design. In this instance, household objects are especially beneficial to paint as it can encourage dementia sufferers to recognise and memorise the item. Knitting is ideal for cognitive development as it requires repetition and working with their hands.

Some more examples can be found on the Alzheimer’s Society website.

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