Watching your parents age can be difficult, and when signs of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia appear, it can be harder than ever. Seniors with memory loss often have trouble expressing their thoughts and emotions, making it difficult for them to communicate with others. Knowing how to talk with them can be challenging, but it’s important to master it so they don’t become frustrated or angered, and you can remain calm and patient. Here are ten tips to help you skillfully and effectively communicate with your loved one with memory loss.

Be patient and supportive

It’s important that your parent knows you’re listening and trying to understand. Show them you care about what they’re saying and try not to interrupt, even if it takes them a while to express their thoughts.

Avoid criticizing or correcting

When they struggle to communicate, it isn’t the time to correct or tell them how wrong they are. Instead, take a deep breath and actively listen to find the meaning in what they’re saying. If you’re still unsure, repeat what was said to clarify the thought.

Don’t argue

There is no point in arguing with someone with memory loss. What they’ve said is their reality. If you disagree, let it be. Arguing tends to make things worse and can agitate someone with dementia.

Take a guess

If your loved one is using the wrong word or can’t find a word, it’s okay to try and guess the right one. Don’t worry so much about the word, though, if you can understand what they mean. Forcing them to find the right word can cause unnecessary frustration.

Limit distractions

Too much sensory input can put someone with dementia into overload quite easily; find a place that’s quiet to talk. This will help them focus on their thoughts and not be distracted or overwhelmed by their surroundings.

Focus on feelings, not facts

Remember that how they feel is as important, if not more, than their being factually correct. Pay less attention to what’s being said and look for the feelings behind the words.

Use short, simple words and sentences

Now isn’t the time to show Mom or Dad how developed your vocabulary is or give a speech to them. Stories that are too long can be overwhelming. During your conversations, ask just one question at a time. Keep your sentences short and direct.

Speak slowly and distinctively

Be aware of speed and clarity. Use a lower pitch, which is more calming to seniors with memory loss due to Alzheimer’s or dementia. Try to keep a relaxed and gentle tone.

Turn negatives into positives

Use positive redirection when you can. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t do that,” say, “Let’s do this.”

Treat them with dignity and respect

Avoid talking down to your loved ones or talking as if they aren’t there. They can often understand more than you realize. Always be aware of your words and attitude. Do your best to stay friendly and positive in both verbal and nonverbal communication.

Family Resource Home Care provides exceptional dementia and Alzheimer’s care throughout the Pacific Northwest. Contact us today at (800) 775-6380; we’d love to help.