How do I communicate with people

To the experienced caregivers among you, the topic of “communicating with people with dementia” may seem old hat. However, it makes sense for each of us to keep the basics in mind. These tips are very valuable when dealing with your residents, especially for new colleagues, interns, volunteers and students.

In my experience, even after many years of professional experience, we always get into difficult situations with residents and in retrospect we have to realize that the conversation would have gone better if we had looked at the communication rules again beforehand. In this regard, we never stop learning and are dependent on reflecting ourselves again and again.

With these 10 tips you can improve communication with your demented resident

1st tip: Do not talk to the third person about the person to be cared for when he or she is there.

Even people with dementia have a sense that when you talk about them, it's about them. It is by no means the case that they no longer notice anything. Remember that you are looking at a person and not a thing.

Tip 2: deal with what your counterpart can still do and not what he or she can no longer do.

Often the deficits are clearly in the foreground in our perception. However, it is important for your resident that you recognize, appreciate and promote what resources they still have (e.g. expressing feelings, singing, going for a walk). Nobody wants to be reduced to just their deficits.

Tip 3: Pay attention to the body language, facial expressions and gestures of your counterpart.

When language skills decline, non-verbal communication is particularly crucial. Observe whether contact and touch are desired. Make sure that the proximity-distance ratio is comfortable for the resident. When you are unsure, less is more.

Tip 4: Speak clearly with eye contact.

Your demented resident will take longer to understand a message. However, they are neither stupid nor deaf. Therefore, do not shout or slow down your speech seriously. Eye contact helps the caregiver understand you better.

Tip 5: Use emphasis, facial expressions and gestures.

Use your tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures to give meaning to your statements. Look roughly as it corresponds to the emotions of the statement, demonstrate actions (e.g. toast when the person is supposed to drink). That makes it easier to understand.

6. Tip: Address your resident as an adult as “you”.

Always remember that the person you are caring for is not a child, but an adult. You should basically sieze your resident. Take into account the standard of your facility. In some houses, a Duzen is allowed after a long relationship with the senior citizens, but in many it is not allowed at all.

7. Tip: Don't ask overwhelming questions.

Questions relating to short-term memory (e.g. what we had for lunch today) and questions that require higher cognitive performance (e.g. the question about personal age) can no longer be answered and make positive communication more difficult . Questions should relate to the longer past or to what is just visible or audible.

Tip 8: Talk about memories from long-term memory.

Topics that are suitable for a conversation that is pleasant for both parties are, for example, the life and history of your resident's youth and young adulthood. This often refers to the period between the 1950s and 1960s. To stimulate conversation are z. B. Photos in the room of the person to be cared for.

9. Tip: Use the correct personal pronoun.

Avoid sentences like "Then we want to go to the bathroom" or "Then we want to eat".

The so-called “care-we” confuses people with dementia, because it is you who have to go to the toilet or want to eat.

Tip 10: Don't take rejection personally.

If residents do not want to talk to each other, decline a care offer or even respond with insults, this does not have to have anything to do with you personally. Even if you heed the communication tips, it is still possible that the person you are caring for is mentally elsewhere. Just try again later.

Go through the list step by step at your next team meeting, which will also be attended by interns, or at your next volunteer meeting. There are sure to be many sample situations and questions that you can work out together so that you can use a different communication strategy the next time.