Communication Tips

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These tips for communicating with someone with dementia can improve the relationship between the caregiver and care recipient, and lead to better quality of care.

DO’s

  1. Face the care recipient directly, maintain eye contact while communicating, and attract her/his attention before beginning.
  2. Be at the care recipient’s eye level. If the person is standing, you should be standing, and if the person is sitting, you need to be sitting.
  3. Orient the care recipient frequently. Provide frequent cues about who, what, when, where, and why.
  4. Provide continuity by continuing on the same topic without changing focus too often. If the topic is going to change, provide orientation.
  5. Try to help the care recipient find the words that s/he may be “stuck” on trying to remember.
  6. Simplify your instructions to only one or two topics. Keep sentences short, simple and direct. Repeat nouns rather than using pronouns.
  7. Try to ask easy questions. If there are choices, limit the number of choices to two if possible.
  8. Use pleasant facial expressions and tone of voice, pictures, hand signals, and pantomime to convey your message.
  9. Give the care recipient time to respond. Offer clues about how the person can answer the question if necessary.
  10. Remember that good communication is a two-way exchange. If the care recipient is having difficulty holding up her/his part of the conversation, try to help her/him to participate.

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DON’Ts
  1. Avoid pointing out errors. There is generally no need or benefit to correcting errors made by the care recipient. Pointing out errors may cause distress and agitation.
  2. Avoid arguing. Arguing won’t improve the care recipient’s ability to remember. It will only make the situation worse.
  3. Never invalidate emotions. Affirming the care recipient’s feelings is important.
  4. Don’t criticize, scold, or embarrass the care recipient.
  5. No matter how busy you are, never rush the care recipient.
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