Communicating well with anyone often takes work and time. Whether they are a new person that is shy or someone that you may not have common ground with yet and don't know what to talk about. Whether they are someone with hearing difficulties and you often have to repeat or increase the volume you speak at. Or maybe you are talking to a non-native speaker and there is a language barrier and you have to choose different vocabulary or slow your rate of speech. With any of the reasons above, you would't just give up or avoid conversations, you would realize the circumstances and adjust to the type of communication that is needed. When communicating with those living with Dementia, there should be the same level of understanding certain difficulties and instead of rejecting opportunities to engage, there should be course correcting and adjustments in order to make meaningful conversation possible.
If you are someone who finds holding meaningful conversations with those living with Dementia difficult or often confusing, please try these five steps first.
1) Slow your pace of discussion and use short and simple sentences.
2) Keep your engagements conversational and avoid interrogation style questions.
3) Introduce humor when you interact and remember to be patient and respectful.
4) Prepare yourself but keep your agenda hidden. Be relaxed, give yourself enough time and set realistic expectations.
5) Try using visual cues in later stages of Dementia, as words don't make sense anymore.
Frustration can often be the first emotion when having conversations that aren't at the level of ease or substance that you expect. It is important to remember that Dementia is a disease and the miscommunication or confusion is never intentional. When you're noticing a difficulty in how your loved one is engaging with you or a change, try to apply to five steps listed above and always remember to enjoy one another. There are many different hurdles to meaningful and fluid communication but that does not mean those types of conversations are not worth having.
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