The onset of dementia in our friends and loved ones can be extremely tragic. The condition, which affects the memories and behaviors of the people suffering from it, can change the people we love into complete strangers. This is not only difficult for us emotionally, but can present issues in how we deal with and relate to our loved ones.
After all, how should communication with someone with dementia work, when you’ve known them for years as a completely different person? Today, Granny Nannies brings you three of our favorite tips for dealing with this exact issue.
Never Infantilize Them
When someone succumbs to dementia, their personalities can change along with their diminishing memories. They may seem childish or less sophisticated, struggling to follow simple conversations or focus on what they are doing.
It makes sense to think that the best approach to this issue is to treat them as you would a child, using simple sentences, asking basic questions, and keeping things loose. After all, it’s not like there’s a roadmap to this kind of issue.
The problem is that when we infantilize people, we speak to them in a higher register, or get inappropriately close to their faces. We speak to them like they’re not intelligent or like their feelings are childish, and this can be insulting and make them shut us out.
Regardless of how much your loved one is following what you’re saying, always make sure to treat them with respect. Use the titles they prefer, and don’t “overdo” things by shouting to make yourself heard. They are still an adult person, and it’s your job to find the middle line with how you address them.
Avoid Using Slang and Figures of Speech
This is a tip most people don’t think about until they’ve already made a misstep. Dementia patients have a tough time understanding complicated sentences. If there is some sort of subtlety to what you’re about to say, there’s an increased chance they won’t understand it.
And we see this a lot with slang and figures of speech in communication. If you can find a plain way to say something, you should use it. Don’t say “the early bird gets the worm” when you help your mother get ready for Sunday church. Even an established idiom like this can be confusing, and they might fixate on it for longer than they need to. Instead, just say what you’re trying to say. “I know it’s early, but we have to get going, mom.”
Never Ignore Them
When you have a question, you expect a response from the person you ask, right? That sense of expectation doesn’t just go away when someone develops dementia. We all want to be acknowledged, and having someone pretend like you aren’t there can be genuinely dehumanizing.
In addition, never talk about the person in question as if they aren’t there. Not only is it rude, but they may understand more than you expect and any disrespect will come across crystal clear. Essentially, just remember to always treat your loved ones with the respect you’d expect from them.
Learn Better Communication Techniques
The issue with communication techniques when it comes to dementia patients is that, while they do need special treatment, they also deserve respect and to be treated normally, as far as possible. It can be a fine line to walk, and you’ll need to be ready to react on a dime to any changes in their personality. But, with the right amount of foresight and some quick thinking, you can maintain a healthy relationship and help them navigate the tricky waters of their new condition.
Are you interested in in-home nursing services to help you take care of your loved one? Visit Granny Nannies or get in touch with us today to find out more about our caregiver services portfolio.