Elder Care In Hospital

Communicating with Individuals Who Have Dementia

Remember… they may forget your name and role but they will never forget how you made them feel.

Get Their Attention

Be sure you have their attention and they have their necessary (working) hearing aids when speaking to them. Turn off the T.V. or radio. Don't try to compete with other environmental noise.

Avoid Words that "Wither"

Such as “Stop that!”, “Don’t do that!”. Rather, redirect the individual by saying “Come with me…” or “Let’s go for a walk”, or “I need your help. Can you come with me?”. Validate their feelings.

Speak First

When communicating, you should first communicate through speaking to them. If this does not seem to work, use gestures plus speaking. For example, say “Come with me” at the same time you are beckoning them with a hand gesture. Finally, if all else fails, offer your hand for them to take and use touch. Do not grab someone’s arm first to get their attention. If something has caught their eye that you do not want them to see, camouflage that object or remove it from their field of vision.

Keep it Simple

Give one direction at a time and avoid long sentences.
For example, “Sit down here” and tap the seat.

Go Slowly

When approaching them, make sure you approach slowly from the front. Crouch down next to them if they are sitting in a wheelchair. Introduce yourself. Be careful not to startle.

Be Patient

Always give the individual time to respond to what you are asking (including during personal care). They may need time to register your request and then respond. Patience goes a long way.

Demonstrate Independence

In dementia care we always encourage independence as much as possible. If the person does not know how to feed themselves, then demonstrate the eating motion with a spoon/fork for them. If they still do not understand, then put your hand over their hand while they hold the spoon/fork and begin the motion of eating the food. Many times, once the rhythm is established, they will continue the motion and you can remove your hand.

Making Assumptions

Always assume the person can understand more than he/she can express. Never talk about them in front of them.

Be Mindful of Your Feelings

People with dementia are very sensitive to how you make them feel. If you are rushed or frustrated, they will pick up on this and express their frustration through a responsive behavior.

Speedometer by Guillaume Bahri; Listen by Rémy Médard; Hostility by Luis Prado; Happy by Tina Abi Hachem. The artists' work can be found at the Noun Project.