How to Talk to a Parent with Dementia

Author

The Fairways At Naples

For more information about the author, click to view their website: The Fairways at Naples

Posted on

Aug 15, 2023

Book/Edition

Florida - Southwest

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Caring for a parent with dementia can be an emotional experience. And as dementia progresses, communication can become increasingly difficult, making it essential to find effective ways to communicate so you and your parent can avoid frustration. Engaging in a meaningful conversation with your parent can help build and support a sense of connection while helping stimulate their mind.

By using specific strategies involving open communication, patience, and changing your language to suit their level of cognitive function, you can begin enhancing conversations with your parent and foster a deeper bond together. 

It can help to seek support from a memory care community if your parent needs an advanced level of care for their memory impairment. 

CREATE A COMFORTABLE ENVIRONMENT

When talking to a parent with dementia, the environment surrounding you both plays a big role. It helps to spend some time and design the environment to be familiar and comfortable, as this can help reduce feelings of anxiety and promote a sense of ease. 

Try choosing a quiet room with minimal distractions where you can speak without distractions or interruptions. Using soft lighting and comfortable seating can help contribute to a relaxed atmosphere as well. It helps to display photographs or cherished belongings, as these can help spark memories and start new conversations.

It can be beneficial to maintain a consistent routine and keep the room organized. Making the area a familiar space can make it easier for your parent to focus on the conversation with you.

USE SIMPLE & CLEAR LANGUAGE

Using simple and clear language is crucial when speaking to a parent with dementia. When using complex languages, jargon, or advanced concepts, you may cause feelings of frustration and confusion, making communication significantly more difficult. To avoid this, it helps to:

  • Use shorter sentences
  • Speak slowly and distinctly
  • Break information across several sentences
  • Give them time to process the information you’re giving
  • Maintain eye contact where possible
  • Use hand gestures or visual aids to make the conversation more stimulating

By simplifying your language and making a conscious point to convey information clearly, it can help enhance their understanding of the conversation. This can make your parent more receptive to what you’re saying and help them retain the conversation.

PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING

Active listening is a fundamental conversational skill that can greatly improve how you communicate with others—especially when memory impairment is involved. It helps to make an effort to focus on:

  • Their non-verbal cues, like facial expressions and body language
  • Avoiding interrupting or finishing sentences for them, as this can lead to frustration
  • Trying to use reassuring gestures, like nodding and smiling when they’re speaking

By using kindness and actively listening to what they’re saying, you can help your parent feel more valued and respected, making the conversation much more meaningful for both of you.

FOCUS ON MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS

Engaging in meaningful conversations is essential for maintaining a sense of connection and well-being between you and your parent. It helps to focus on topics that resonate with their past experiences and interests, as this can trigger all kinds of old memories and help stimulate their mind.

Try encouraging them to share memories or stories that make them happy. It helps to incorporate old photographs or familiar belongings into the conversation, as this can help spark new engaging discussions. Try giving them some time to remember the important moments so you can bring them moments of happiness throughout the conversation.

By focusing on older stories and promoting recalling memories, you can actually help them combat cognitive decline to some extent!

PRIORITIZE PATIENCE

Patience is key when communicating with any person suffering from any form of memory impairment. It’s important to understand that these conditions directly cause many variations of cognitive decline, which can lead to many different communication issues. 

Give them time to process information, understand what’s being said, and recall memories and stories. Try avoiding the urge to correct them if they get something wrong or criticize them if they say something contradictory. By providing them with reassurance, support, and understanding, you can create an environment where they feel they can communicate with you openly and effectively.

Compassion is key when communicating with a parent with dementia. By demonstrating patience and understanding, the conversation may become much more meaningful for both of you.

A senior woman talking seriously to his son while having a cup of tea and bread.

SUPPORT OPTIONS FOR A PARENT WITH DEMENTIA

Caring for a parent with dementia can be overwhelming and emotionally challenging. It’s important to remember that it’s completely okay to ask for help, and there are many options available to get your parent the care they need. One of these options is through the aid of a memory care community.

These communities are specially-designed facilities with a staff trained to help residents suffering from all forms of memory impairment. They offer programs tailored to the unique needs of individuals with conditions like dementia and have a team of trained professionals on-site who can help your parent have a high quality of life.

If your parent is in need of a memory care community in Florida, contact us at The Fairways at Naples, and let us give your parent the care they deserve. Schedule a tour with us today, and remember: you aren’t alone.

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