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How to Talk to a Parent with Dementia

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A young adult and a senior adult having lovely conversation while sitting on a couch.

Talking with a parent living with dementia can pose a unique challenge. After all, you want to support your parent, but dementia can affect their ability to communicate. While communities with memory care can help support your loved one, it takes time to learn how dementia affects them. So, how do you talk to a parent with dementia?

It all starts with patience. Make sure you’re giving your parent time to finish speaking and don’t correct or confront them. Stick with simple language, practice active listening, and encourage them to share their stories, thoughts, and feelings

This is an excellent way to support your parent; over time, you’ll learn to communicate with them in a way that gives you a chance to support them.

How Does Dementia Affect Communication?

Dementia is a group of neurodegenerative disorders that lead to the death of brain cells, causing cognitive decline in different parts of the brain. It affects memory, reasoning, and communication.

As dementia progresses, expressing thoughts and emotions or understanding what is being said becomes more difficult. It can be hard to find the right words, follow a conversation, and engage in complex discussions, which can lead to:

  • Confusion
  • Intentional isolation
  • Frustration
  • Withdrawing from conversations

A person living with dementia may start to have difficulty interpreting social cues, leading to potential misunderstandings.

Dementia is a highly complex condition, but by understanding what your loved one is going through, you can learn how to communicate with them to work around these difficulties properly.

How to Communicate When Someone Has Dementia

When talking to your parent with dementia, keep in mind what’s occurring in their brain. Dementia affects cognitive abilities, memory, and communication and leads to:

  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Trouble following conversations or staying on topic
  • Struggling with comprehension and understanding
  • Repeating themselves or getting stuck on certain phrases
  • Expressing emotions through nonverbal cues rather than words

Even though communicating with someone who has dementia can be hard, there are several strategies you can employ to make things easier for both of you.

Practice Patience

Patience is key when interacting with someone with dementia. Give them time to process the information and respond. Avoid rushing or interrupting them, as it can cause frustration and confusion. Remember, they may need extra time to find the right words or express their thoughts.

Avoid Correction or Confrontation

Avoid correcting your parent if they get something wrong. Correcting them can lead to frustration and may even undermine their self-esteem. Instead, focus on validating their feelings and providing reassurance. If they say something incorrect or confusing, try to redirect the conversation rather than correcting them directly. This helps reduce stress, can improve their self-confidence, and encourages them to be open with you in a safe space.

Keep Language Simple & Clear

Dementia can affect a person’s ability to process complex language and understand abstract concepts. To help your parent communicate more effectively:

  • Use simple, clear language.
  • Avoid using slang or jargon that they may not be familiar with.
  • Avoid asking too many questions at once, as it can overwhelm them and cause them to forget what they are talking about.

Use Active Listening

Active listening involves giving your full attention to your parent. This means maintaining eye contact, nodding, making encouraging noises, and summarizing what they’ve said. This shows that you are fully engaged in the conversation and helps your parent feel heard and understood.

Encourage Them to Share Their Stories

Reminiscing can be a wonderfully helpful activity to help your parent with dementia. It can help them connect to their past and bring back pleasant memories. 

Sharing stories and reminiscing together can improve cognitive abilities and stimulate memory recall. Encourage your parent to share their stories and listen attentively. It can be a meaningful way to connect and bond with them.

Tips for Supporting a Loved One with Dementia

A couple of older adults gardening.

Supporting a parent with dementia is about more than just communicating. It’s about prioritizing their well-being and making decisions that benefit them in the long term. 

If you are caring for a parent with dementia, here are some ways you can support them in their everyday life:

  • Establish a routine: People with dementia thrive on familiarity and routine. Establishing a daily routine can provide your parent with a sense of structure and stability.
  • Create a safe environment: Dementia can affect memory, judgment, and spatial awareness. Remove potential hazards such as loose rugs or cluttered pathways, install grab bars in the bathroom, and secure furniture to the walls to prevent accidents.
  • Encourage independence: While it may be tempting to do everything for your parent, it’s essential to allow them to maintain their independence as much as possible to boost their confidence and help them retain cognitive skills.
  • Engage in meaningful activities: Keeping your parent mentally stimulated is crucial for their cognitive health. Plan activities they enjoy, like playing a favorite game, walking, or listening to music. Activities can help reduce agitation and behaviors associated with dementia.
  • Seek support: Caring for a loved one with dementia can be overwhelming and emotionally taxing. Seek support from family, friends, or a professional caregiver, or join a support group to get valuable advice and understanding from others in similar situations.

What Is Memory Care?

Dementia is a complex condition, and at some point, your parent may need to move to a community where they can get support from a team of experienced and supportive caregivers. If that’s the case, consider memory care.

Memory care is specialized care for older adults with dementia or cognitive decline. It provides a secure environment where trained professionals offer personalized care, assistance with daily activities, and engaging programs to enhance cognitive abilities. 

Memory Care in Nashville

If you have a parent with dementia, reach out to our team at The Village at Bellevue. We’re dedicated to caring for you and your family, and we’re here to help. Contact us today, or schedule a visit to see for yourself.

Written by admin

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