7 tips on how to communicate more effectively with somebody with dementia.

November 17, 2017

main_chatAccording to lastest research by Alzhemiers Research UK, 2.11% of the population of Lewes or 1,926 people are living with dementia. The Wealden district has 1,866 people living with dementia , equivalent to 1.75% of population. Eastbourne has 2,292 people living with dementia, which is 2.09% of the population.

In total 2.7% of the population of the South East are living with the disease – that’s more than double the UK average (1.33%).

Nial Joyce of Seaford’s Clifden House dementia care centre, said that for every one person with dementia there are families and friends also affected by the disease, making the South East a region more acutely aware of the growing issues. He said: “24.6 million people in the UK or 38% of the population know a family member or close friend living with dementia.”

 To help, Clifden House shares tips on how to communicate more effectively with somebody with dementia.

Nial said: “I hope these will help those who are spending more time with friends or relatives with dementia. There is no right or wrong way to engage with somebody with dementia and these are only suggestions from my personal experience.”

  • ‘Remember when…?’

Reminiscing about old times can be a hard subject for somebody with dementia so sentence starters such as ‘do you remember when..’ can be frustrating for them. Instead you can start talking about a memory you have and then they can add something if they feel they can, thereby creating a natural and satisfying ‘in’ to a real reminiscence.

  • ‘I’ve just told you that’

Repetition will happen and it can be frustrating, but it’s important to be patient and make sure the individual feels listened to. This is not a conversation to be ‘won’, but a journey to trigger a working and real communication in difficult circumstances.

  • ‘Your sister died 10 years ago’

A person with dementia may forget about a past bereavement and reminding them may cause them to relive the grief. It may be better to come up with another reason for their absence. There is much debate about retriggering moments of grief and loss, and finding ways to reduce anxiety whilst maintaining a truthful relationship is a fine art, but constantly reliving an emotional cul-de-sac of loss could perhaps be replaced with a chat about positive memories of the individual and good times recalled.

  • ‘What did you do this morning?’

It can be stressful for somebody with dementia to answer an open-ended question, so it is better to stay in the present. So even asking them if they would like a drink is too broad, be more specific like ‘do you want a glass of water’.

  • ‘Do you recognise me?’

If they don’t this can make them feel guilty or and if they do they may be offended. It’s better to judge the situation at the time so keep it friendly and go from there.

  • ‘Let’s have a cup of tea now, then after that we can go for a nice walk and get lunch in that café you like in town.’

Long sentences like this can be difficult to grasp. It can be hard for individuals with dementia to process many ideas at once, so give instructions one at a time and use short simple sentences.

  • ‘Do you need help with that, dear?’

Words like dear can be patronising for people living with dementia. Use their name as often as appropriate as this aids concentration. Don’t lose touch of the humour and banter that may have made up their conversation in the past.


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