For dementia sufferers, simply communicating with others on a daily basis can be an insurmountable obstacle. As cognitive function declines, there are more and more barriers and stumbling blocks that must be conquered to perform even the simplest of tasks. So it's no surprise that attempting to communicate with others, be it family, friends or carers, can end in frustration, or even aggression and violence. If your loved one or relative suffers from dementia, use these six guidelines to help encourage effective communication and reduce frustration.
1. Be patient.
If your relative or loved one is taking some time to express themselves, do not rush them. This will only lead to frustration and a break down in any attempts at communication. Instead, be patient and allow them time. Remember, this is a difficult task for them, and they are trying their best. Effective communication is much more likely to occur when the person feels comfortable and at ease.
2. Use interpretation and visual aids.
You will find that, as the disease progresses, your relative or loved one will lose aspects of their vocabulary and will substitute other words, often incorrectly, for the ones they have forgotten. This 'word searching' is the brain's attempt at compensating for its flaws and is often why the person will form sentences that do not make any sense. Do not correct them. Use the situation and environment to try and interpret the true meaning of what they are saying or, if you can't, use visual aids to help ascertain basic needs; cup, drink, food, toilet etc.
3. Pay attention to non verbal communication.
As cognitive ability decreases, verbal communication can become limited. Pay attention to non verbal communication such as body language and facial expressions. For example, if the person is wandering around in search of something, is irritated and fidgety or grabbing at their clothing, chances are they might need to use the bathroom. Interpreting these non verbal cues will help you establish a more accurate picture of the person's needs and feelings and, thus, reduce frustration and aggression.
4. Arrange a hearing test.
Poor hearing is a huge barrier to communication. If the person cannot understand what is happening in the surrounding environment, they cannot communicate appropriately and are much more likely to become annoyed and withdrawn. Take your relative or loved one along to a health care clinic for a hearing test. If necessary, a hearing aid can be fitted to increase hearing ability, making communication easier and clearer.
5. Organise an eye examination.
Ensure you take your loved one for an eye test also. Much the same as with hearing, poor sight can affect communication in those with dementia and increase confusion and frustration. Having glasses prescribed if necessary will increase the clarity with which they see the world. This will reduce confusion and isolation and help promote clearer communication.
6. Seek medical help for any sudden deterioration.
If your relative or loved one is displaying increased signs of confusion or a sudden change in communication ability, seek medical advice. This could be a sign of underlying infection and, if so, urgent treatment is needed. Infections are detrimental to the overall health of the person and will increase confusion, irritation and many other symptoms associated with dementia, which will negatively affect their ability to communicate.