Doctors explain the causes, symptoms, and treatment, along with tips on how you can help but this is not always enough.
We believe that every person affected by Dementia needs to have people around them that are patient, compassionate and can help to ease their frustration.
With a few simple tips from this blog and some practice, we hope that the families whose parents/grandparents struggle with the condition, can tackle it, guilt-free and happily.
Before we get to it, here’s some information about Dementia:
Dementia is not a disease. It is a condition or syndrome which affects the cognitive functions of those who have it. The person struggles to think, remember, reason, or make decisions, which interferes with their everyday lifestyle and activities. The symptoms depend on the stage and type of Dementia, varying from mild to severe.
Learn more about Dementia using this Link.
- Speak Clearly and Calmly
Stay focused on what you want to convey and communicate using words that they are familiar with.
You can use shorter sentences and speak slightly slower than you usually would. At the same time, try not to be vague or use slang and figures of speech- describe actions directly.
Stay composed and give them time to respond. Asking them to speed up will result in them feeling pressured and can lead to frustration on both ends.
Most importantly, don’t talk too loudly. Not every person with Dementia has a hearing impairment and talking loudly may make them feel as though you are yelling at them.
- Be Positive with your Body Language and in Your Tone of Voice
Non-verbal cues like eye contact and a warm smile convey that you are glad to be around them. They feel reassured and happy.
Use gentle touch while you’re talking to them to reassure them of your positive relationship with them. Watch their body language to see whether they are comfortable with you doing this.
- Be Inclusive
No one likes to be ignored or feel isolated.
Include the person with Dementia in every group conversation to reduce feelings of isolation. They might understand more than you give them credit for.
- Do Not Patronize/Infantilize the Person
Despite a person’s impaired ability to understand, we must ensure that we speak to them with dignity and respect. Use their names and preferred titles instead of using words like “honey,” “sweety”, or similar terms as it may come across as demeaning, even if you speak to them with affection.
If they’re sitting down, re-position yourself to be at their level to accommodate a more comfortable and respectful conversation.
How to teach children to communicate to a person with Dementia
- Be Direct and Honest with your child
Age-appropriate honesty is the best solution when you explain Dementia to your child.
Your children are more likely to notice household and lifestyle changes. They can pick up on cues such as whispers and frustrated body language.
While you might be inclined to try to protect them, it is better to give them direct answers to their direct questions.
“Why does Grandma Mary do silly things?”
“Dementia makes people confused and makes people do silly things. Try not to laugh at her because it might make her upset. You can help her instead!”
“Why is Grandpa Shawn angry all the time?”
“Grandpa is getting older, and his brain is slowing down; he gets snappy sometimes. He’s just a little frustrated because he can’t do some of the things, he used to be able to do.”
Find more examples using this Link.
- Play Make Believe
A person struggling with Dementia may say nonsensical things. You and your child should play along with them instead of contradicting or correcting them.
It is better to do so rather than asking your child to lie.
Enter their reality with them.
- Prepare Conversation Topics in Advance
Have your children carry the weight of the conversation with a person with Dementia.
“Hey! Why don’t you tell Grandpa Shawn about the birthday party you went to last week?”
You can also plan activities that your child and their grandparent with Dementia can indulge in together. Be it colouring, listening to music, solving puzzles, or even singing.
- Have your Children Stay in your Family Member with Dementia’s Line of Sight
If a person with Dementia can’t see you when you’re talking to them, they can get startled. All you need to do, is slowly nudge your child in the right direction as necessary, making it a habit to notice where they’re standing.
- Don’t Overthink
Don’t be afraid when your child spends time with an elderly person with Dementia. Encourage their curiosity and accept what is happening.
There are also children’s books about Dementia that you can read to/with your child:
If you’re unable to be around your loved ones with Dementia because of your busy schedules, you can contact Emirates Home Nursing and we will provide one of our expert nurses to come and support your family.