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Enhancing Connection: Effective Communication Strategies for Dementia Care

Have you ever said the wrong thing? Maybe your intention was to compliment a friend on her new haircut, but you came across sounding like you were criticizing her previous hairstyle. Selecting our words carefully is always important, but even more so when speaking with someone with dementia. The words we say as well as the way we say them can greatly impact the person’s emotional well-being and quality of life.

When it comes to communication strategies for dementia care, there are certain things you should and shouldn’t say. Here are five things never to say to a person with dementia, along with alternative approaches to foster connection and understanding:

  1. "You're wrong." Invalidating a person's thoughts or memories can cause frustration and distress. Rather than dismissing their reality, validate their feelings and experiences. For instance, say, "I understand that you see it that way," or redirect the conversation to a different topic. By acknowledging their perspective, you validate their emotions and maintain a sense of connection.

  2. "You are being difficult." Labeling their behavior as difficult or challenging can escalate tension and hinder effective communication. Instead, approach them with understanding and kindness. Identify the underlying needs or emotions driving their behavior and respond with patience and empathy. For example, say, "I can see that you're feeling frustrated. Let's take a moment to determine how we can make things better together."

  3. "You don't have dementia." Denying or minimizing their condition may lead to feelings of confusion and isolation. It is essential to acknowledge their reality while offering reassurance and support. Express empathy and assure them that you are there to help navigate any challenges they might face. You could say, "I'm here to support you through this journey, regardless of what comes our way."

  4. "Do you remember…?" Asking someone with dementia to recall specific details can result in anxiety or embarrassment if they cannot remember. Instead, provide gentle prompts or share your own memories to spark conversation without putting pressure on them to remember. For example, say, "I remember when we went to that restaurant together. It was such a wonderful evening," allowing them to participate in the conversation without feeling pressured to recall specific details.

  5. "You just told me that." Continuously pointing out their forgetfulness can be hurtful and counterproductive. Instead, practice patience and respond as if it's the first time you've heard the information. This approach preserves their dignity and reduces feelings of frustration. You can say, "Thank you for sharing that with me," and continue the conversation without dwelling on their forgetfulness.

Communication can become very challenging as dementia progresses. Let The Care Company’s trained, experienced dementia care specialists help you find the communication strategies for dementia care that work for you. Reach out to us online or call us at (416) 422-2273 to learn more about our specialized care for people who have dementia in North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, and the surrounding areas. We understand the unique needs of individuals living with dementia and are dedicated to providing compassionate care that promotes dignity and quality of life.

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