Create a comfortable environment.
When you’re visiting with a loved one who has dementia, remember that stimulating environments can create a sense of unrest and disorientation for your loved one. Avoid loud noises as much as possible, address them with a warm and comforting tone of voice, offer gentle touches (hugs, hand holding, etc.), and friendly facial expressions to further create a sense of peace for them. It’s highly recommended that unnecessary distractions like the television, radio or extra movement are at a minimum during your visit, or avoided completely.
Speak calmly and respectfully.
Address your loved one by their name, and kindly remind them of who you are and how you’re related to them. Opt for more non-verbal cues to help keep their attention during your conversation. If they are laying down or seated, comfortably come to their level. While speaking, maintain a calm tone and slower pace that is easier to comprehend. While speaking with them, make sure to keep your words and sentences simple and easy to follow. If they don’t understand you the first time, it’s imperative that you repeat what it is that you’re trying to say with the same calm and slow tone. Simply repeat what you’re saying or try saying it a different way without increasing volume or pitch. Imagine you’re at a spa; maintain a relaxing atmosphere to keep things comfortable for both of you.
When speaking to someone with dementia, it’s recommended to avoid using pronouns like (she, he, they), instead use a person’s name and use the names of places to help your loved one more easily follow along with your conversation. You can also remind them gently of the relationship they have with this person to help with making those connections.
Keep questions short and simple.
It’s best to ask questions one at a time and opt for questions that warrant a yes or no response. These types of questions tend to work the best for carrying on in a pleasant visit together.
Practice patience and grace.
You may find that your loved one is struggling to communicate or find the words that they’re looking for. Practice patience and allow them the opportunity to reply. If it’s clear they’re struggling or becoming frustrated, it is absolutely okay to suggest words. Keep a close eye on non-verbal's to help you to respond appropriately.
Be a sense of peace.
If your loved one is becoming irritated or upset, you can help them by changing the subject or the environment in some cases. You may want to invite them out for a walk with you or offer to read a great story to them. Remember that an important communication tool with your loved one is more in emotions and feelings rather than in words. Help them feel the love you have for them by practicing peace wherever possible. An example response might be “I can see you’re sad – I'm sorry you feel sad. Would you like to come for a walk outside with me?”
It’s so very important to understand how your loved one is feeling. Many people with dementia feel confused, nervous and unsure of their environment and themselves. It’s possible they may also get confused between moments they think occurred and what really did occur. This blurred sense of reality can become more confusing if you try to correct moments they recall that may not have happened. Therefore, it is not recommended to try to correct someone who recalls moments that didn’t occur. Instead, stay focused on how that makes them feel, because how they feel about it, is real.
It’s okay to reminisce together.
Reflecting on the past is a beautiful moment that can be shared together and can create a sense of reassurance and comfort to both you and your loved one. It’s often true that people living with dementia may not recall what happened two days ago, but they can clearly recount their early 20s or raising their children. If this is the case for your loved one, avoid short-term memory questions and conversations and opt for chats where you both can cherish the past and live presently with those memories and emotions together. You never know, you may just discover something amazing that you didn’t know before.
At Melody Living we believe in embracing the Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Keep in mind while visiting your loved one, that all of these elements play a role in a person’s overall wellness, even when living with dementia. Each visit you have together, try to implement an element from these tenets of successful aging as the theme of your visit. You’ll quickly realize there are endless opportunities to enjoy together. To learn more about our memory care neighborhood and community life, feel free to schedule a private tour by calling 719.960.4005 or visit our contact page.