Dementia causes memory loss, poor reasoning and judgment, difficulty finding words, and mood changes, all of which can make communicating with a grandparent with dementia very difficult. It can be emotionally upsetting to see them aging, and it can be frustrating when they don’t understand what you are trying to say. If you have a grandparent with dementia, these tips will help make communicating with them much easier and much more enjoyable.
When talking to a grandparent with dementia, it is important to have patience. People with dementia can have trouble finding their words and they can wander in their stories. Patiently listen to them and let them get out what they are trying to say. It may take some time and you may find it hard to stay focused at times, but in the end you may be rewarded with a wonderful story or piece of advice.
2. Offer Assistance with Words
Not everyone with dementia wants help with finding their words, but if your grandparent does want help you should give it to them. With my own grandfather, I have found that he becomes very frustrated and upset when he can’t find his words. However, if I help him out, he remains calm and has a much easier time communicating. It isn’t always possible for me to figure out what he is trying to say, but things go much more smoothly when I can.
3. Listen Carefully
Often, people with dementia can wander off and talk about various unrelated things as they are communicating. This can make it very hard to follow what they are trying to say. However, if you listen carefully, you can often pull out key pieces of relevant information that will give you the gist of what they are saying. Also, by listening carefully, you can ask questions to show you are interested, which will make your grandparent feel really good.
4. Speak Slowly and Clearly
When talking to someone with dementia, it is important to talk slowly and clearly. At first this may feel odd, but talking slowly will help a person with dementia follow what you are saying. Often, people with dementia need more time to process information. Taking time will give them time to grasp what you are saying.
5. Limit Noise
It is important to decrease or eliminate ambient noise when you are communicating with a grandparent who has dementia. Noise from the TV, other conversations, or music can cause confusion for someone with dementia and make it hard for them to follow what you are saying. As much as possible, limit noise, as this will make your conversation go much better.
6. Try Saying Things Differently
If you reach a road block in your conversation and your grandparent isn’t understanding what you are trying to say, try putting it a different way. This may mean simplifying it, or using different words. You may even need to ask for help in finding a new way to say what you want to. Keep in mind, it is worth the effort to find a new way of saying something, because it usually helps your grandparent understand what you are saying.
7. Don’t Argue
Dementia can make people moody and argumentative. If this happens during your conversation, don’t argue as it only makes the problem worse. Instead, switch topics, and if that doesn’t work, excuse yourself for a minute or two. When you come back you can try again with a benign topic like the weather.
It can be very upsetting to see your grandparents getting older, and it is especially difficult if they have dementia. While dementia can make it hard to communicate with your grandparents, it isn’t impossible. You just need to follow these tips, and your conversations will be much more enjoyable. Do you have any tips for communicating with a grandparent who has dementia?