But then the question comes, “Do you tell a person with dementia the truth?”
It is important to know that you should not lie to them with some exceptions where white lies are necessary.
For the most part, it’s better to stay on their side, following a person’s REALITY, which can be referred to as therapeutic fibbing.
This is all about agreeing or saying some things that are not true to avoid causing people with dementia distress.
It also makes them feel comforted and safe.
Communicating with a person who has dementia may be quite challenging at times especially if they are not making sense of whatever they are saying. It is clear that, should you correct someone with dementia, it will cause confusion and upset.
Although it may be tempting to correct someone with dementia, do not fall into this temptation.
Instead, try and meet the affected person where they are always practicing understanding, patience, kindness, and love during conversations.
In regards to the query do patients with dementia know what they are saying, it is important to learn some communication strategies to adapt when communicating with individuals who seem not to know what they are saying.
This is because persons with dementia are bound to have communication hiccups which can lead to multiple misunderstandings.
For instance, a person can point to a computer and call it a picture or say that they want to eat worms referring to their favorite food only that they cannot voice out the proper words.
Many people with dementia usually go back to their first language as they lose their ability of speech.
If a person grew up speaking a certain language, get ready to speak the language at some point.
When talking to a person with the progressive illness, try and create a calm and quiet environment.
It is best to sit face-to-face with the person you are talking to.
Minimize distractions like noise from the TV or radio or any sights that may be causing distractions.
Most individuals with dementia will remember songs because melodies and music are stored in the parts of the brain that the disease does not affect.
Singing, thus, is one of the ways to connect with the affected individuals. An alternative to singing is just relaxing and listening to the person’s favorite tunes.
The Right Approach
People with dementia generally do not like surprises. If they do not see other people coming, it might elicit aggression or anxiety.
It is, therefore, advisable to always approach them from the front which gives the affected person time to process an individual’s arrival.
It is also recommended that a person identifies themselves before engaging in conversation.
This is done to create awareness and attention reminding the affected person of who their loved ones are.
Have a Caring Attitude
when seeking answers to the query do patients with dementia know what they are saying it is vital to understand that individuals retain their emotions and feelings even when they do not understand what is being said.
For this reason, it is crucial to always maintain the self-esteem and dignity of persons with dementia when talking to them.
Allow plenty of time for responses and remain flexible. Avoid arguing or becoming controlling even when the person with the illness is in the wrong.
Communicating without Words
At times, words are not sufficient when communicating with a person who has dementia.
Body language, touch, hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions are other communication options available when words are not enough.
For instance, when asking a person what they want to eat, pointing to the refrigerator can help reinforce the message.
Nodding the head indicates a person agrees while shaking the head shows an individual is not in agreement.
A hug or warm smile can also convey the message you want to pass across strongly.
Remember to only use touch when it is appropriate to grab the person’s attention while communicating affection and warmth.
Understanding the Disease Makes People Say Harmful Things
It is common for persons with the disease to use hurtful words, make mean comments, or accuse their loved ones of terrible untrue things.
While it may be devastating to hear such things, it is important to remember that the affected individual is not saying these bad things on purpose but it is the disease that is causing them to say such things.
When a person with dementia loses their ability to communicate it can be hard and frustrating not only to the affected individual but their families, friends, and carers as well.
When this happens, it is important for loved ones are carers to change the way they communicate with the affected person.
Keep in mind that communication is made up of three parts:
1. 55% Body Language: This is the message that people send with their gestures, facial expression, and posture.
2. 38%: It represents the pitch and tone of the voice.
3. 7%: these are the words people use.
The statistics above show the importance of how carers and families should present themselves with people who have dementia.
It is easy for people with dementia to pick up negative body language like raised eyebrows and sighs.
They can reach a stage where they keep repeating the same sounds, words, or phrases; thus other people will not understand the message they are trying to pass across.
Numerous studies done by linguists focusing on the language of individuals with dementia reveal that the affected individuals may be communicating about the reality from their past world but are not able to use “dictionary words” which results in misunderstandings.
Communication challenges can make a person feel discouraged and just not try and talk to other individuals.
Social withdrawal may be another answer to why do dementia patients stop talking.
Many people with the neurodegenerative disease find their current world filled with loneliness, pain, noise, and confusion.
The affected individuals may also be dealing with an array of emotions from fear, anger, or sadness, etc.
They, therefore, find comfort in solitude as they retreat to a world that they once lived in. Here they can relive happier moments when the disease was not taking a toll on them.
1. Effective Strategies for Dementia and Communication
1. Get the Person’s Attention
It is crucial to start by getting the attention of the person you intend to speak to.
You can do this by approaching the person with the illness from the front to help them see you. It is also advisable to reduce any background noise that may be coming from the radio, TV, crying babies, etc.
Always identify yourself and address them by their names. It may help to repeat the name of the affected person a couple of times during the conversation.
Remember to keep expressions friendly. Keep in mind that the person with dementia wants undivided attention. Always show that you are willing to listen and comprehend what they are saying.
Practice patience when dealing with dementia and communications because the persons need some time to concentrate, understand, and come up with a response.
You may also want to meet the other needs of the suffering person first before you sit down and start having a conversation. This way, the person will not be hungry, thirsty, in pain, or uncomfortable when it is time to start talking.
2. Go Beyond Words
This is extremely important, especially during the later stages of the disease, when a person with the illness cannot express themselves properly.
Using hand gestures, eye contact, body language, touch, and facial expressions may come in handy when trying to communicate with a person who has dementia.
Examples of such are nodding your head for yes and shaking your head if you want to say no. You can do this even when voicing out the words as a reinforcement measure.
If it is possible to say something without letting it out, opt for this route.
Experts agree that a hug or warm smile may convey the message strongly so that you do not have to use actual words.
Remember that it is okay not to know what to say. Honest friendships and presence are the most valuable. Remember to stay close to the person you are talking to but not too close in a way that you are interfering with their personal space.
Your facial expressions and body language should always match what you are saying. This is because people with dementia are good at reading body language.
Tense facial expressions or sudden movements can make communication difficult as this may cause distress to the ailing individual.
3. Learn How to Speak
When facing dementia and communication issues, it is crucial to check how you speak. Always approach an affected person with a calm and clear tone.
You may want to peak at a slightly slower pace. This will give the person you are conversing with time to process the information you are trying to pass across.
Do not raise your voice or speak sharply. You should also avoid asking too many questions at once because this may lead to confusion and frustration.
Respect the person you are having a conversation with so that you are not talking down at them. You should also talk to them like grownups and do not address them like young kids.
4. Use Simple Language
When you are talking to a person who has dementia, it is not the time to showcase your prowess of complicated words.
It is advisable always to use simple, short and familiar words during conversations.
Positive language is also crucial during the trying times of handling dementia and communication issues. Try and use short sentences that do not exceed five words so that you can convey one thought or message at a time.
If you are trying to give off directions, opt for one-step instructions. For example, let’s go for a walk, kindly lean this way, and lift your arm.
Always identify things and individuals by name avoiding the use of pronouns.
Rather than telling a person what not to do, it is better to suggest what they should do. This way, they will not feel as though you are trying to attack them because of their current situation.
5. Adapt To Changes
As time goes by, you may find that it becomes harder to deal with the problems that arise due to dementia and communication.
The person you are trying to talk to may start to misunderstand you constantly.
At this point, it is advisable to rephrase as an alternative to repeating what you have just said.
Adapt to the suffering person doing your best to understand their unique gestures and words. Redirect, or distract the person when they are facing stressful situations so that they can fast forget what is stressing them.
Always encourage the person with dementia to express their thoughts even when they find it increasingly difficult.
Do not, in any way, criticize, interrupt, argue or correct the person you are having a conversation with.
Adapting also means that you should make the most of the “good” days and try to cope during the “bad” ones.