Communication can become increasingly more difficult as the dementia disease progresses. If you have a loved one that is becoming a challenge to communicate with you may find education on what to watch for helpful. While there are some very common signs that caregivers should be aware of, each individual in unique and signs can differ from person to person as well as where they are at in the disease progression. Some common communication problems that someone living with dementia may experience are:
Difficulty finding words
Word salad- placing unusual words in a sentence or fragmented thoughts.
May speak in a native language. This is a language that may sound like French, Spanish, etc., but they do not actually know that language or have never learned that language.
Pointing at items and have difficulty finding words for that specific item.
More difficulty finishing sentences as they get lost in their thoughts.
If you find yourself involved in a group conversation with a caregiver and an individual or others with varying cognitive levels, it is important to speak to both the caregiver as well as the person living with dementia. Do not assume someone won't understand and therefore exclude them from the conversation just because they have been diagnosed with dementia. Also, do not interrupt the person as they are speaking or attempt to finish the sentence for them. This can make a person more agitated and anxious. Make sure your words are communicated slowly and clearly, but remember that just because someone has been diagnosed with dementia it doesn't mean they have difficulty hearing. Unless apparent by diagnosis or direction, there is no need to speak loudly. They can still hear normally unless they have an underlying hearing condition. Make sure you are always at eye level and approach them from the front. In the dementia process, their vision becomes smaller and smaller over time until they can only see what is right in front of them. Do not throw a lot of questions out for them to answer all at once. This will make them feel extremely overwhelmed. They then may "shut down" and not want to participate in a conversation at all. This silence and with-drawl can lead to frustration for both parties.
Try to avoid correcting or arguing with someone living with dementia. It is a battle you will never win. If you do not agree with something that they are saying, just leave it at that. Give visual cues when you are wanting to communicate something to them such as; take a drink of water, sit down in the chair, etc. You can also try and write notes. Most importantly, be patient. Fully understanding each other can be a struggle and overwhelming experience for both the person living with dementia and their caregiver.
If you have questions about different communication strategies, reach out to one of The Views Senior Living Communities or their Certified Dementia Practitioner. The Views values the importance of maintaining connection with a family focus. We realize that simple changes can make a big difference. We care and are here to help.