Sep 21, 2022

How to Talk to a Parent with Dementia

Effective communication can be a huge challenge when dealing with a parent suffering from dementia. Because of their inability to remember and focus, most dementia patients experience frustration, confusion, and anger. Unfortunately, anger and frustration can manifest in aggressive or oppositional behavior toward others.

Ideally, part of dementia home care should involve effective communication. The importance of knowing how to properly communicate with a dementia patient cannot be overstated. After all, proper communication can help foster connections and help ensure your relationship will not be strained as you navigate this challenging time together.

Talking to a Parent with Dementia: Helpful Tips to Keep in Mind

Below are some tips that can help you better communicate with a parent with dementia:

Avoid any power struggle.

It’s common to experience power struggles when dealing with a parent with dementia. To avoid power struggles, be mindful of your facial expressions and other nonverbal communication when talking to them. You also have to be careful with the tone of your voice.

If one of your parents has Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) or other forms of dementia, they may exhibit stubbornness. It is also possible that they won’t follow instructions or listen. This is especially true if you take an authoritative stance or show them that you want to be in charge and control the conversation.

Avoid distractions when communicating.

When talking to a parent with dementia or AD, keep environmental distractions to a minimum. This means ensuring no loud sounds, music, or television noise should hinder effective communication. Distractions and noise can make it more difficult for them to focus and understand.

Minimizing noise and distractions can be especially helpful when dealing with patients with increased communication struggles and those exhibiting advanced memory loss. It is also recommended that you pick a good time of the day to communicate or talk with the patient. Make sure there are fewer distractions and you are both comfortable.

Speak clearly and slowly.

As the condition progresses, the patient’s ability to talk or fully comprehend conversations can be adversely affected. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends speaking to dementia patients clearly and slowly. Speaking slowly and clearly will make it much easier for them to understand what you are saying.

Be simple and specific.

When conversing with a parent with dementia, always use words and sentences that are specific and easy for them to understand and follow. If the patient cannot understand what you are saying the first time, try using another word that means the same thing. Also, it is recommended that you don’t jump from one topic to another to avoid confusion.

Don’t interrogate or quiz.

When asking questions, ensure you don’t sound demanding or accusatory. Be patient and always remember that as the condition progresses, there will be instances when patients won’t know what they are saying.

Interrogating or quizzing dementia patients with unnecessary questions might only increase their confusion and anxiety. Asking too many questions might also frustrate and overwhelm them.

Avoid being impatient or patronizing.

Ensure you are always mindful of your body language and tone of voice when talking to a parent with dementia. When conversing with them face-to-face or giving instructions, express yourself without appearing condescending or superior. Also, always make sure you won’t appear or sound impatient. Staying calm can help ease their stress. This is especially true if they are struggling with communicating their thoughts.

Wait patiently for them to respond.

Ideally, you should give your parent with dementia enough time to provide feedback or answer your question. Don’t pressure them into providing a fast answer. Allowing them to take their time will help ease any tension and pressure. Learn how home care services benefits for your elderly loved ones.

Use visual cues.

Using visual cues will help provide patients with dementia with a more positive experience. Your body language and expression can be effective visual cues when talking with them. Some experts suggest that you approach them slowly and make eye contact. You should also show an open hand motion near their face and smile.

Final Thoughts

Providing care for a parent with dementia can be gratifying. However, it can also be very challenging. Fortunately, the communication tips above should help you connect with them effectively and ease frustration and stress for both parties.