Dementia is a debilitating condition that can rob an individual of their memories, mobility, and ability to communicate. For example, dementia patients may have trouble remembering names and faces, understanding conversation, or expressing themselves coherently. It becomes even more challenging when the conversation happens over the phone as you cannot use gestures or eye-contacts to make them feel at ease.
Luckily, you can do a few things to make talking on the phone with someone with dementia easier for both of you! So, if you have a senior loved one living away from home or in a memory care facility, we have come up with 10 tips for talking to someone with dementia on the phone to get you started.
Importance of Communication for Someone with Dementia
While the loss of communication may be one of the most devastating aspects of dementia, it is also one of the most critical areas to focus on when caring for someone with the condition. It can help to stimulate the mind, relieve boredom and loneliness, and provide a sense of purpose. In addition, communication can be a valuable way to share information and express needs.
Research has shown that individuals with dementia who maintain social and communication skills have a better quality of life. Furthermore, communication can help to ease some of the other symptoms of dementia, such as anxiety and agitation.
In order to best support someone with dementia, it is vital to encourage communication and socialization as much as possible. This may involve simple activities such as listening to music together or looking at photos, or providing pet therapy. Using facial expressions and gestures to supplement communication can be useful as well.
It is also important to be patient and take the time to really understand what the individual is trying to communicate. By maintaining open and effective communication, we can help make life better for those living with dementia.
How Does Dementia Affect Communication?
Dementia can have a profound effect on communication. When a person has dementia, their ability to communicate effectively can be gradually diminished. The disease can affect the parts of the brain responsible for speech and language. This can make it difficult for dementia patients to form words and sentences, or to understand what others are saying. As the condition progresses, some people may become more withdrawn and less able to engage in social interaction.
Sometimes, a dementia patient may have difficulty in communicating due to pain, medication side effects, or discomfort. Additionally, many dementia patients become agitated or frustrated when they can’t communicate effectively, leading to further difficulties.
However, it’s important to remember that everyone experiences dementia differently, and some people may be able to maintain their communication skills for many years. There are also a number of strategies for talking to someone with dementia. For example, simplifying messages, using body language and facial expressions, and being patient and compassionate can all be practical approaches.
10 Tips on How to Talk to Someone with Dementia on the Phone
If you are away from a loved one who’s dealing with dementia, phone calls are probably the most convenient way to stay connected. But it comes with various challenges. However, there are certain things you can do to make the conversation go more smoothly. Here are 10 tips on how to talk to someone with dementia on the phone:
1. Make Sure You Have Their Full Attention
When speaking to someone with dementia on the phone, be sure to have their full attention before you start speaking. This includes making sure they are not distracted by anything else going on around them. Additionally, you should wait for them to stop talking or to pause long enough for you to interject, instead of trying to talk over them. Another good tip is to call them by their names so that they know you are referring to them.
2. Speak Slowly and Clearly
Dementia patients can often lose their train of thought or get confused quickly. So, when speaking to a dementia patient over the phone, it is important to speak slowly and clearly. Additionally, speaking in a calm and reassuring tone will help to ease any anxiety or confusion the patient may be feeling.
3. Use Simple Phrases and Words
People with dementia may have difficulty understanding complex sentences. Use simple phrases and familiar words to ensure that they understand what you are saying. Additionally, avoid any jargon or technical terms that might confuse them.
4. Avoid Loud Noises or Distractions
People with dementia can become easily overwhelmed or distracted by loud noises or distractions in their environment. Try to find a dementia-friendly environment, or a quiet place to talk on the phone. Also, avoid shouting or talking too quickly over the phone.
5. Repeat Yourself If Necessary
Sometimes people who are suffering from dementia get lost in their thoughts or struggle with keeping focus. If the person you are speaking to does not seem to understand what you are saying, make sure to repeat yourself. This will help them to focus and comprehend everything better.
6. Let Them Take Their Time Responding
It is quite natural for people living with dementia to take longer than usual before they answer your questions or comments. Do not get frustrated if they do not respond right away – let them take their time responding.
7. Avoid Yes/No Questions
Questions that require a yes or no answer can be frustrating for someone with dementia. Instead, keep the questions open-ended. Ask questions that encourage your loved one to share their thoughts and feelings.
8. Keep the Conversation Positive and Upbeat
People with dementia may become discouraged or sad easily. So, it’s important not to let your mood dip when talking with someone who has dementia over the phone. Keep the conversation upbeat and positive, talk about things that they find interesting, or make lighthearted jokes if appropriate. You may also talk about things that are familiar and entertaining, such as mutual friends, shared memories, or current events.
9. Be Patient
Patience is key when it comes to talking to someone with dementia over the phone. Your loved one may not be able to process information as quickly as you or they used to. So, take your time and give them some space. They will respond eventually.
10. Don’t Rush Them off the Phone
When speaking to someone with dementia, don’t rush them off the phone. Give them enough time to finish what they were saying and answer any questions that they may have. End the call politely and on a positive note.
12 Questions You Could Ask a Person Living with Dementia Over the Phone
A phone call is an excellent way to give a person with dementia regular opportunities to talk about their day-to-day experiences. However, it can be challenging to know what questions to ask. Here are 12 conversation starters that can help you connect with a loved one living with dementia:
- How are you feeling today?
- How did you sleep last night?
- What did you have for breakfast this morning?
- What are some of your favorite foods?
- Was there anything you didn’t like about the day?
- Can you tell me about a fun thing you did today?
- What are some of your hobbies?
- What’s been on your mind lately?
- Is there any childhood memory that you remember?
- Can you tell me about the things that make you happy?
- Would you like me to get you something when I visit you?
- Is there anything you would like to ask or tell me?
Asking such questions can help bring back happy memories and give you an idea about what’s going on in their lives. Also, you can figure out if they are having any problems or need support.
These 10 tips are a great starting point for learning how to have successful phone conversations with elderly loved ones living with dementia. The main takeaways are to use short phrases, avoid asking complex questions, stay positive, and be patient.
Also, avoid getting frustrated if the person has trouble remembering things or communicating clearly. Just take your time and remember that they are still the same person, even though their cognitive abilities have changed.
For more information on communicating with loved ones who have dementia, check out these related articles:
How do you talk with someone with dementia who is angry?
The best way to talk with someone with dementia who is angry will vary depending on that person’s individual personality and situation. However, some tips for approaching this situation include staying calm and speaking in a reassuring voice, listening carefully, and not trying to force a resolution. If the person becomes aggressive or violent, it may be necessary to seek outside help.
How to communicate with someone with dementia remotely?
Some tips for communicating with a person with dementia remotely include:
avoiding sudden noises or movements that may startle or confuse them
- speaking clearly and slowly
- using simple, concrete words and phrases
- repeating questions and allowing them time to respond
- offering reassurance if they become agitated
What are 5 strategies you should use to communicate with people with dementia?
Here are 5 strategies you should use to communicate with people with dementia:
- Use simple language and short sentences.
- Reduce distractions as much as possible.
- Use gestures and facial expressions to help communicate your message.
- Repeat questions and statements to ensure understanding.
- Be patient and compassionate.
What should you not say to a dementia patient?
There are many things you should not say to a dementia patient, but one of the most important is never to criticize them. Dementia can cause people to act in ways that are unfamiliar or confusing to others, and criticizing them will only make them feel worse. Other things you should avoid saying include asking too many personal questions, making assumptions about what they can and cannot do, and talking about them as if they are not in the room.
How do you deal with repeated questions with dementia?
It can be frustrating to deal with repeated questions from a loved one with dementia. Sometimes, it’s best to try and redirect the conversation or answer the question in a way that they will understand. Other times, it may be necessary to repeat yourself until they remember simply. You can also try to answer the question in a way that satisfies the person without giving them a full answer. Ultimately, it’s important to be patient and understanding as your loved one deals with this difficult condition.
What types of questions should you avoid when talking to someone with dementia?
There are many types of questions that can be inappropriate to ask someone with dementia. For example, questions that are too personal, or that bring back a negative memory. Also, try not to interrogate with trivial questions such as ‘‘What is your name?’’, ‘‘What was your first job?’’. It might make them frustrated. Additionally, avoid yes/no questions and rather ask things that allow them to talk about their feelings.
How do you start a conversation with someone with dementia?
You can start by introducing yourself and talking about things that the person might be interested in. You can also ask them questions about their life or what they’re doing currently. Additionally, talk about their favorite things, hobbies, or their family. Make sure you have their full attention before speaking and avoid noisy or crowded spaces.
How do you answer a dementia patient’s question?
Some patients with dementia may ask questions about their condition or about what is happening around them. It is important to answer these questions honestly and accurately, within the patient’s level of understanding. Sometimes it can be a simple response, such as “Yes, I am here,” and other times you might have a more detailed explanation of what is happening. It is important to take the time to listen to the patient and understand what they are asking before responding.