Communication Tips for Providers of Dementia Care
Are you one of the many thousands of Australians caring for a relative with dementia? After coming to terms with that distressing initial diagnosis, you then begin the difficult journey that life then takes.
One of the most practical approaches to help you cope and manage the impact is to learn how to develop some important communication techniques. It is important to acknowledge right away that caring for someone with dementia can be a demanding and stressful experience. Learning some important skills in communication will improve your ability to deal with the difficult behaviour that is likely to arise in a person with the illness. Implementing these practical strategies will help.
Set a Positive Tone
First and foremost, be aware that your body language and attitude will often convey much more than words. It is vital to start off any interactions in a positive mood. Use your tone of voice, physical touches and facial expressions to their full advantage to help convey feelings of courtesy and warmth. Then speak in a respectful and congenial tone to deliver your message.
Ensure That You Have Their Attention
Try to eliminate any potential distractions. Turn off the television or radio, close the door and possibly draw the curtains. Sometimes you may need to move to a quieter space. Make sure you are both at the same level, either seated or standing, and maintain eye contact. Always use the person's name and employ non-verbal cues such as touch and facial expressions to keep the focus and maintain concentration.
Deliver a Clear Message
Speak in a slow, comforting and clear tone, using simple words. Avoid raising your voice, but simply repeat the same message or question and, if necessary, rephrase and say again after a few minutes. Always use names of people and places and avoid using pronouns like she, he, they and it.
Keep It as Simple as Possible
Try to avoid giving too much choice when asking questions. Aim for a straightforward yes/no response. For example, "Will you wear the blue shirt or the red shirt today?" If possible, show the items as you are asking to help make it clear. Use visual clues as prompts wherever possible.
Strive for Patience
Be prepared to wait for a response. Be alert for body language and any non-verbal cues and suggest words if they are struggling.
Redirect if Agitation Sets In
If the person becomes upset or stressed, try a change of subject or perhaps move to a different setting. Acknowledge this by saying something like, "I'm sorry you are upset. Shall we go out for a walk or have a coffee?" to ease the tension.
Avoid Trying to Convince Them
Often dementia sufferers have a confused recall of reality and may "remember" things that did not actually occur. It is best to avoid trying to convince them otherwise and focus on the feelings (which are certainly real) that they are demonstrating and show support, comfort and reassurance. Often hugging, holding hands and praising will get responses when other strategies have failed.
There is no question that dementia sufferers can develop some very challenging behaviours. As a carer, your role is extremely demanding. Besides the emotional impact of coping with the changes in your loved one, there is the substantial difficulty of providing daily care and assistance. These experiences can be stressful and isolating, and it is imperative that you look after yourself as well as the person you are caring for.
Some time away from your relative can be an enormous benefit for you both. Fortunately, there are many services provided for dementia sufferers. Having some respite care arrangements in place can play an important part for you in remaining physically and emotionally healthy.