Staying connected to loved ones is a huge part of our lives, but when a family member moves into a Memory Care environment, it can be more difficult to do so. It’s natural to feel concerned about how your conversations will go and you may even worry that you won’t have the tools or know-how in order to communicate effectively.
Below, we explore some effective communication strategies available that can help bridge the gap between you and your loved one who is living with Memory Loss.
Common Communication Barriers
Communicating effectively can be difficult for those living with Memory Loss. Often, it can feel like the right words are just out of reach. Deteriorating cognitive function can cause all sorts of communication barriers, including forgetting words, losing track of thoughts, and becoming easily distracted. These barriers can result in breakdowns in communication, leading to frustration, misunderstandings, and even isolation.
In addition, it’s not just about finding the words to say either. It’s also about interpreting them accurately. Sometimes people living with Memory Loss have a hard time interpreting words and understanding the speaker’s intent. Background noise or other environmental distractions can also make it harder to communicate and be understood.
Effective Communication Strategies
Memory Loss can have an adverse effect on the way a person uses their communication skills. While this aspect of the disease cannot be reversed, there are some effective communication strategies that can help those living with Memory Loss engage in meaningful conversations with friends and family.
Use Simple Language and Short Sentences
When conversing with someone who is living with Memory Loss, try to use shorter sentences and/or ask questions that require either a “yes” or “no” answer. Regardless of their past communication skills, dementia and other forms of Memory Loss can often affect a person’s comprehension and make even the most basic topics of conversation difficult. Using simple language and common, everyday terms can help reduce their anxiety in social settings.
Speak Slowly and Clearly
Whether the person living with Memory Loss was once a vibrant, loud, fast talker or was reserved and spoke quietly, try to speak slowly and clearly when communicating. Using a calming voice, a gentle tone, and an understandable language, communicate with compassion and empathy. This will provide reassurance and supportive responsiveness for your loved one living with Memory Loss who may be having trouble communicating.
Make Eye Contact and Use Facial Expressions
As adults we are told to maintain eye contact when speaking to people—whether it be a friend, coworker, or authoritative figure. This shows respect and acknowledges that we are attentive. This rule remains the same when communicating with a person living with a form of dementia or Memory Loss. Eye contact and positive facial expressions are ways to reinforce and maintain communication with the person.
Be Patient and Understanding
Patience is a virtue and when communicating with a person living with Memory Loss, this is key in providing the support and understanding they may need. Allow the person to speak their thoughts in their own time. It is advisable not to interrupt or “rush” them through a conversation. Offer reassurance through patience while the person gathers their thoughts and attempts to verbally or non-verbally communicate with you.
Listening to someone speak about their experiences, needs, feelings, emotions, and thoughts is a major part of effective communication. Using verbal and non-verbal communication to actively listen can help support the person living with Memory Loss. Listen for cues in their conversation to give positive feedback through eye contact and nodding of the head.
Validate Their Feelings
By acknowledging their emotions, you show your loved one who is living with Memory Loss that you understand and care about what they are going through. This can help them feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences with you. Remember to listen attentively and speak in a calm and reassuring tone.
Use Non-Verbal Communication
A wonderful thing about communication practices is there are many non-verbal cues to replace the spoken word. Pointing, gesturing, and other hand movements can speak volumes when there is a breakdown in communication. Use a gentle touch when speaking to the person and, whenever possible, depend on the senses (touch, sight, taste, smell, and sound) as communication.
Avoid Arguing or Correcting Your Loved One
Dementia can cause a person to quickly become flustered or angry when engaging in conversation. If the person says something that is not true or begins to argue about a topic, do not correct them or try to change their opinion. Try to understand their point of view and repeat it back to them for clarification. Debating with a person who is living with Memory Loss can cause greater stress to their mental state.
Use Humour Sparingly
It is said that laughter is the best medicine and with Memory Care, it helps in most situations. While humour and laughter help to ease communication strain, it is important to remember to ensure the person living with Memory Loss does not feel offended. Use humourous jokes and actions to lighten the mood, not at their expense. Never laugh or joke about to make fun of the person having trouble to speak.
Unlock Better Communication: Connect with Memory & Company Today!
If you are having communication difficulties with your loved one who is living with Memory Loss, contact the experienced team at Memory & Company. We offers personalized dementia care, Alzheimer’s Memory Care, short-term Memory Care, and long-term care programs and accommodations.
We understand each individual has unique needs, especially in the form of communication. Our socialization, recreation, and care-assistance programs offer ways to enhance daily living while providing respite care for care partners.
Call us today at 905-888-8808 or 1-866-452-1394 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.