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Top 5 tips to communicate with persons with dementia

The challenges of communicating with someone who has dementia are real as they tend to have mood swings, personality changes and behavioral issues. Good communication skills are essential for people who are caring for persons with dementia.

These communication skills help enhance the ability to handle any difficulties that could possibly be encountered because of the behavioral changes caused by dementia.

Our Dementia Care Consultant & Principal Occupational Therapist at Pacific Rehab & Therapy, Ms Prudence Chan provide these five tips on how to best communicate with your loved ones who are diagnosed with dementia.

1. Positive mood

Attitude and body language communicate feelings quite strongly, so when speaking to a person with dementia keep in mind to have a respectful and pleasant manner. This can be achieved with the right tone of voice, facial expressions and a gentle touch, showing feelings of affection.

2. Get their attention

Eye contact is important so if the person is seated you need to get to their level. The area must be quiet and the curtains closed so that they can fully concentrate on you when you speak to them. You need to address them by name, and you should state who you are.

3. Simple speech is most effective

You should speak slowly but distinctly with simple words and sentences. Use a lower pitch of voice and repeat the question if necessary. If you still have no response rephrase it simply. Prefer to use the names of people and phrases rather than pronouns.

4. Keep questions simple

One question at a time is the golden rule. Aim for those that can be answered simply with a no or a yes. Visual prompts and asking them to show you can make the process easier. Alternatively, give them simple choices – avoid creating complicated choices or options for them.

5. When they respond, be attentive

Patience is important as they respond and you can suggest words if they are struggling. Listen and watch for nonverbal clues from their body language.

It's important that you encourage the person to communicate what they want, however they can.

Improving your communication skills will help make care-giving less stressful and will likely improve the quality of your relationship with your loved one. Good communication skills will also enhance your ability to handle the difficult behavior you may encounter as you care for a person with dementia with a myriad of symptoms.

About the Author:

Prudence Chan is the Dementia Care Consultant and Principal Occupational Therapist of Pacific Rehab & Therapy.

She is a Fully Registered Allied Health Professionals with AHPC, a graduate of La Trobe University ( Australia ) & is due complete Msc in Dementia Studies in 2020. She is presently the Visiting Dementia Care Consultant Occupational Therapist of Lions Home for the Elders.

Prudence Chan with the late Professor John Starr, Honorary Professor of Health and Aging at the University of Edinburgh and

founding Director of the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Center.

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