Dementia Communication Tips Help Caregivers

Talking with someone with dementia often becomes a challenge for family members and caregivers. The Palace Gardens, Homestead’s award-winning memory care and assisted living community requires extensive ongoing training for their team helping them have the tools to communicate with residents.

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Jennifer Almodovar CTRS, Memory Care Activities Director, reminds caregivers and families to step into the world of the person with dementia rather than trying to bring them into our reality. For example, if a resident is continually asking for her husband, saying her husband died may cause anger, depression and other similar negative behavior. It is less stressful to say the husband called and will be here at 7:00 tonight which gives the person some closure.

Families may object to what they perceive as lying but it’s better to make it about the resident. The resident becomes more comfortable with the answer even if they ask it 20 times a day. The staff is trained to give the same answer. In this way, the resident can feel more comfortable having the information and may have a better day participating in activities and interacting with people. This is difficult for families to grasp but much better for the individual.

Here are some additional tips offered by Jennifer:

• Rather than standing over someone, get down on their level. Pull up a chair and sit next to them or kneel down but getting on their level means they don’t have to look up.
• Residents easily pick up nonverbal cues. The tone of a person’s voice and facial expression are important when communicating with someone with dementia. Despite one’s frustration, it’s important to try to not overreact to something taking place. Patience is important.
• Quizzing someone on specifics such as names and dates could be very frustrating and embarrassing. It’s better to help them remember by giving them a cue.
• A gentle touch on an arm or shoulder or holding their hands offers reassurance. A caregiver demonstrates compassion through these gestures.
• Give each person respect despite their behavior. Talking to them like a child or treating them like children won’t create a successful connection.
• If they become angry, try to refocus their attention with something they enjoy like a snack or change of environment. The Palace Gardens has a multi-sensory room that is a favorite place that residents use with residents for a change of scenery. It also helps redirect residents’ attention and causes them to relax.

These are just a few useful tips. The Palace Gardens offers many lectures and support groups through their Passport Program. Please call Elizabeth Martinez at 305.247.0446 for information on the Passport Program or to learn more about The Palace Gardens offering assisted living and memory care luxury residences and care.