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How do I communicate with a person with dementia?

Sometimes, communicating with a person who is losing their cognitive faculties can be difficult.

In Alzheimer's, and in any other dementia, the loss of language and the ability to express feelings, desires and moods occurs slowly, as well as the understanding of the environment, the stimuli and messages they receive from the outside.

It is essential that caregivers and family members around any person who suffers from this type of cognitive impairment are aware that it is necessary to adapt their way of communicating depending on the degree of impairment that has been reached.

Here are the 10 recommendations that we offer to caregivers to improve communication with people with dementia:

1. We know that it can be exhausting trying to get them to understand exactly what we want to express, especially in later stages of Alzheimer's, but it is still important to talk to them a lot. Even in the later stages, the person with dementia perceives feelings through the tone of voice that is used to address to him.

2. We must try not to yell and lower our voice. As we have said before, if we raise our voice, the person with dementia may think that we are angry or upset, and we could alter his mood.

3. We must use simple language and avoid long sentences so that they capture the message we want to notify. Also, if we speak slowly and pronounce clearly, they are much more likely to understand our words.

4. In people with dementia, we must be clear, concise and say things as they are, without adding too many explanations or expressions that could confuse them.

5. If it is necessary to ask a question, we must ask it in a simple way and avoiding them from choosing between two or more options, since this could be confusing. Also, we must be patient and allow them time to respond and verify that what they have said is accurate. In case they don't answer the question, we can repeat it.

6. Ask for things with kindness and tranquility, in this way we will place the person with dementia in a favourable situation to respond.

7. To take care of their emotional well-being, we must get used to communicating positive messages, avoiding negative messages.

8. In order to contribute to their autonomy, we can prepare small reminder lists in capital letters and without annotations, so that they know what to do. In people with advanced stages of Alzheimer's we can use pictures to show where things are.

9. It is common for people with dementia to act by imitation. We should get used to showing with gestures what to do, as well as explaining what we are doing.

10. And finally, let's smile and be nice to them. Emotional language is the language they understand the longest and the last to be lost.

As we said before, taking care of a person with dementia is a very demanding job, but we can improve the relationship and communication if we apply these 10 tips.

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