5 Key Tips to Communicating With Dementia Patients
People with dementia ask some very difficult questions and knowing how to handle that can be tricky. The way to handle these situations is to show you're listening and that you do care. Do not try to reorient them to reality. For instance, if they are searching for their parents, telling them that their parents are deceased could cause a lot stress and agitation.
Saying they don't drive anymore and that their car has been gone a long time may cause a violent outburst. The person generally will not remember any of this and it's distressing to learn something so drastic may have happened and they don't remember. Often times, they will just sit there and argue with you.
When communicating with a dementia patient, it's important to remember not to argue with them. Distracting from the questions can sometimes be helpful but can be difficult to do. Offering them a snack, or performing an activity together may help to distract them from some of these distressing issues. Here are some examples of what to do when some of these questions arise.
Dementia Sufferer: "Where's my mother? I can't find my mother!"
You: "You're looking for your mother?"
Dementia Sufferer: "Yes, I can't find her!"
Here are some possible answers that could be very reassuring to the patient:
- "We will watch for her together. Why don't you tell me about her."
- "You miss your mother very much. Let's have some ice cream while we wait for her."
- "I haven't seen her, but let's have lunch while we wait."
Acknowledge the problem, show understanding, and continue to show understanding until they calm down a little. Then attempt some distraction. Dementia is impossible to predict and sometimes none of these methods will work.
Dementia Sufferer: "I want to go home!"
You: "You are missing home?"
Dementia Sufferer: "Yes, I want to go home now!"
You: "Well, tell me about home. Where did you live?"
Dementia Sufferer: "Well, on a farm, yes on a farm."
Here are some possible responses that could be very reassuring to the patient:
- "Oh, what animals did you have?"
- "Did you help on the farm?"
- "Did you buy a farm when you got older?"
Continue talking about "home" for awhile (even if you're at home), until the person is calm and then engage them in some other activity.
Remember to acknowledge their problem, show understanding, and don't argue with them. Allowing them to voice their feelings on the subject may help, gentle persuasion toward another topic or activity can help calm the agitation.