An important part of any type or relationship is communication. An often tough task becomes increasingly difficult, however, when a person with dementia is involved.
Both processing and expressing information become more difficult, which can lead to frustration, which can ultimately manifest itself as agitation. Anything from mere pacing to lashing out can be a sign of agitation.
As a caregiver, you want to avert agitation as much as possible. Effective communication can help. Below is a list of ways to improve communication. It is by no means complete, but if you follow these tenets, you’ll be doing well:
- Talk with a calm presence
- Don’t argue — you’ll never win
- Validate feelings
- Smile and be pleasant
- Approach from the front so you don’t startle your love one
- Identify yourself, if needed
- Maintain eye contact
- Ask one question at a time
- Go slowly. Remember that hurrying heightens frustration
- Use short sentences
- Give plenty of time to respond
- Repeat information as needed. Repetition is good and usually helpful
- Use touch, such as on the shoulder, knee, back or hand
- Give hugs — many times a day
- Laugh together
- A high-pitched voice might convey that you are upset so speak with a lower tone when possible
- Speak clearly and directly (and, to repeat, slowly)
- Don’t correct your loved one
- Ask things nicely: Don’t make demands
- If you feel your words becoming heated, stop. Take a deep breath. Try again later
- Don’t take adverse behavior personally.
- Respect the person as an adult; don’t talk down to him or her
- If he or she cannot find or make the words, gently finish a sentence as needed.
- When at all possible, allow choices — such as “Should we pay the gas bill or electric bill first?” or “Would you like tea or coffee?” etc.
- Frequently praise your loved one and spread affirmation — for even the smallest things. Make phrases like these a frequent part of your vocabulary: “Thank you,” “Good job!” and “You’re the best!”