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5 Top Tips for Better Communication with Dementia Patients

older man and woman

Caregiving for patients with dementia can be challenging, but if you are patient, prepared, and willing to take the extra time and care it takes to improve your communication skills, then your interactions will be more positive and successful. The following are the 5 top tips for better communication with dementia patients.

Tip #1: Always convey a positive attitude

With many dementia patients, it is your overall tone and feeling that will make an impression rather than what you are actually saying. The best way to improve communication with dementia patients is to set a positive mood for each interaction right from the start. This means changing your tone of voice, facial expressions and body language to be soft and positive. Avoid raising your voice and keep your tone as pleasant as you possibly can.

Tip #2: Reduce distractions

When you need to speak with a patient with dementia, first reduce distractions in the room as much as possible. This means closing window curtains, turning off the television or radio, etc. Always remember to get eye contact before you begin speaking and when possible, get yourself down to the patient's eye level.

Tip #3: Speak slowly and simply

Dementia patients may have trouble understanding you if you talk too quickly or you use confusing words and phrases. Make sure that you are speaking slowly—but softly, with a low pitch—and that you use simple words and phrases. Make sure that you always use the proper names of people and places (such as "Karen" instead of "your daughter") because pronouns and nicknames can be confusing.

Tip #4: Keep your questions to "yes" or "no" questions

Open-ended questions are often very confusing for dementia patients, and they will be difficult for the patient to answer effectively. When you need to ask a question, make sure that it can be answered with “yes” or “no.” For example: Instead of asking the patient “Do you want to eat steak or chicken for lunch?” ask them “Do you want to eat steak for lunch?” If they say no, then you can ask: “Do you want to eat chicken?”

Tip #5: Break down expectations and activities into stages

If you need to communicate with the patient in order to tell them what you are going to do—such as help them take a bath or feed them lunch—then you should break everything down into singular activities. This will help prevent the patient from feeling overwhelmed and it will make it easier for you to accomplish your task. For example: Instead of saying “We’re going to get you out of bed and go into the dining room to eat dinner,” break it down more simply: “I am going to help you get out of bed.” Then when they are out of bed, continue: “I am going to sit you in your wheelchair,” “I am going to take you into the dining room,” “I am going to help you eat lunch,” and so on.

For more information, guidance, or assistance, contact the experts at Homewatch CareGivers of Charlotte today.

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