What is dementia ?
Dementia is a common syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and it’s abilities. Dementia can affect anyone, but your total of developing dementia increases as you get older, and the condition commonly occurs in people over the age of 65. The most common cause of dementia include conditions where the brain cells degenerate and die more quickly than they would through the normal ageing process. This damage leads to a decline in a person’s mental and sometimes physical abilities.
Communicating effectively with a person living with dementia.
When a person is living with dementia, it is likely that their ability to communicate will be affected in someway. This will depend on the area of the brain that is damaged and/or the stage of the person’s progression through their illness. The person cannot change the way that they communicate with us. It is our responsibility to change how we communicate to enhance their understanding and wellbeing.
In communication a person living with dementia might face some of these issues
- memory loss
- difficulty forming ideas
- difficulty understanding
- difficulty with verbal expressions.
Not everyone with dementia will experience all of these.
Memory loss or poor short-term memory can cause a person living with dementia to have difficulty remembering what has been said to them or drift from the point or topic of conversation or start to say something and forget what they are talking about and many more issues
Helpful Hints for such scenarios
- Say the person’s name to gain attention at the start of the conversation and throughout.
- Try to sit at the same level as the person with dementia.
- Repeat yourself if you are unsure that the person with dementia has heard or understood you.
- When more than one person is present, try to have only one person speak at a time.
- Write down keywords to support what you have said (If the person’s ability to read is intact)
We use thoughts and ideas we form in our mind to influence what we are going to say. A person with dementia may experience difficulty forming ideas and thoughts or appreciating and understanding the ideas of others. You can help them by doing the following
- Pause and allow time for the person with dementia to process what you have said or asked and to formulate a response.
- Us gestures and non verbal cues such as pointing or using pictures to aid understanding of what you are saying.
- Repeat yourself if you are unsure the person with dementia has heard or understood what you have said.
- Minimize distractions and noise levels.
- If the person with dementia loses focus then gently remind them of the topic.
The ability of the person with dementia to understand, process and respond to information heard and the speed at which they do so can be affected by their condition. You can assist them by doing the following
- Speak slowly and clearly and at a normal volume.
- Keep your language short and simple.
- Emphasize key words.
- Pause and allow time for the person to process what you have said.
- Use gestures and non verbal communication to aid understanding of what you are saying.
- When more than one person is present, try to have only one person speaking at a time.