Improving Communication With A Parent That Has Dementia

Caring for a parent at home becomes more complicated when signs of dementia set in. Loss of short-term memory and speech difficulties make communicating with your parent challenging. To improve the communication, you and the in-home senior care workers can change the way you talk with your parent. These tips create a space around your parent that let them better focus on speaking with you.

1. Approach Your Parent With a Positive Attitude

When you or the senior home care workers talk with your parent, use your body language and tone to convey. A person with dementia is more sensitive to the non-verbal signs and they will react to your frustration or agitation. They will focus on the emotions and have difficulty listening to your words. If you feel rushed or tense, take a few minutes to calm down before talking with your parent.

2. Get Rid of Distractions So the Focus is On the Conversation

Because of your parent's sensitivity, the TV playing, the baby crying in another room and the noise outside will keep them from focusing on your conversation. Move to a quiet place in the house before starting to speak with them. Sit facing them at eye level to help them focus.

3. Connect With Your Parent to Start a Conversation

Depending on the severity of the dementia, your parent may take a few moments to realize who you are and why you're talking with them. If this is the case, start the conversation by saying who you are and why you wish to speak with them. For example:

"Mom, this is your son John and I wanted to talk with you about what you would like for lunch today."

This is especially important for the home health care staff to do since they are strangers and you could have different people show up to help: "Mrs. Richardson, this is Barbara, your nurse, and I want to take your blood pressure."

4. Ask Simple Questions That Can Be Answered Easily

Cognitive thinking becomes impaired with dementia so when asking questions, give your parent choices to help them respond. "Yes or No" questions work as do questions with a limited number of responses: "Mom, this is your son John and I wanted to know if you would like to watch TV or work on your puzzle now?"

5. Keep the Conversation Focused When Your Parent's Mind Wanders

A number of things can distract your parent during the conversation and they can become frustrated. For example, a sudden loud noise outside can disrupt their concentration. They may show agitation and even signs of aggression. When this happens, acknowledge the distraction and help your parent get their focus back on the conversation: "That was a loud car noise outside and I can see it startled you. Would you like to help me pick out the shirt for you to wear this afternoon?"

Your parent wants to communicate, but distractions around them and their heightened sensitivity take their mind away from the words. If you and the home care staff are patient with your parent, and help them keep focused on a conversation, you'll improve the communication with them at home. For assistance, talk to a professional like ComForcare - San Fernando Valley.