What to say
We touched on spoken communication in Communication tips: verbal, but let’s simplify that a bit.
You know your loved one, you probably know what she likes to talk about, what she doesn’t care about, what she prefers to avoid discussing.
Some helpful things we’ve found help conversations go smoothly:
- Reminiscing can be a great way to connect
- Don’t quiz.
- This means, don’t ask “Do you remember when…?” questions.
- What if she doesn’t remember? It can be quite embarrassing to realize you’ve forgotten moments that were once significant. You don’t want to unintentionally shame someone.
- Even if they’re well-intended (they’re a natural part of many conversations), “Don’t you remember…?” questions can put people on the defensive, cause them to withdraw, or encourage lying to cover up the memory lapse.
- Alternatives to “Remember when…?” questions
- “I was just thinking about that time…”
- “You once told me that you moved to New York when you were seventeen…”
- “Didn’t you used to love horses when you were little?” (bringing up a broad topic can be “safer” than trying to get to a specific story)
- Be aware of how engaged your loved one is.
- You may want to try speaking more plainly and/or slowly if your loved one is trying to keep up but seems unable to
- It’s okay to repeat yourself, first using the same words, then phrased differently
- Communicate at her pace
- Generally, avoid interrupting or supplying words
- BE FLEXIBLE
- The conversation may not go the way you’d anticipated; just let it follow its natural course
- Avoid “corrections”
- If she says something that’s incorrect, it’s usually alright to just let it slide. Even if a lot of the things she says are incorrect: often, her intention can be communicated even with facts that are wrong. Don’t get caught up in the details, just encourage communication and let untrue “facts” slide.
- Don’t take it personally; with dementia, as certain connections in the brain become frayed, it’s natural to fill in the gaps with other bits of information. It’s normal, so don’t get upset about it.
- “I didn’t eat lunch yet” right after lunch may be met with “Are you hungry?” rather than “Yes you did.”
- Allow yourself to be in your loved one’s reality
- Or just talk about things that you’re looking at: how good dinner looks, how beautiful the flowers are just outside the window, or how nice it is to spend time together.
This is part 3 of a 5-part guide:
No Medical Advice
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