Dementia is a progressive disease that results in the loss of cognitive functioning – things like reasoning, remembering, and thinking. Having a parent with dementia can make communication difficult. It’s hard to watch a loved one slowly forget themselves and their family. Dementia causes agitation and confusion, which makes holding a conversation difficult. Speaking to a parent with this disease can be frustrating; they may become upset very easily. To help understand how best to communicate with a loved one who has dementia, consider the following tips – they may help to improve your relationship:

Speak in simple sentences. People with dementia have trouble understanding complicated sentences or answering open-ended questions. When communicating, try to use short and simple phrases. Refer to people or objects directly by name, instead of saying he/she/they or it. If you need to ask a question, phrase it in such a way that it can be answered by a “yes” or “no”. Too many questions will confuse a person with dementia, so try to limit them and keep them simple. Maintaining eye contact is another helpful cue – it can help your parent focus on the conversation. Lastly, if words fail, try using visual gestures with your hands. You can also use objects to communicate – show your parent an old photograph or a favourite item of theirs.

Play familiar music. Music can have a profound effect on a patient with dementia. The Alzheimer Society of Canada claims that music can have a positive impact on patients with dementia. It may bring back memories or alleviate anxiety. You can select music that is soothing when the patient is irritated, or if they are feeling good, play a catchy song they might remember from their youth. 

Use a reassuring touch. If words fail, a touch can go a long way in communicating with a parent who has dementia. Try holding their hand or putting your arm around their shoulders. If your parent is comfortable with it, you can offer a soothing massage or hug. A reassuring and gentle touch will help calm them and make them feel supported. 

Be positive. It’s important to be patient, even when the conversation is frustrating. If you show that you are upset, it may worsen your parent’s emotional state. When you are feeling stressed, try not to show it in front of your parent. They will notice your body language and tone, and if they sense that you are irritated, it may upset them further. When speaking to a parent with dementia, try to be patient, compromising, and accommodating. People with this disease have good days and bad days – if all else fails, take a break for the day and try to communicate again tomorrow.  

When taking care of a parent with dementia, it is important to take care of yourself, too. The burden of caretaking can be extremely difficult to handle, and many families struggle when looking after their aging parents. Partners for Home can help – we offer private home care in Winnipeg. Contact us today, and we can help you take care of your loved one in a familiar and comfortable environment.