Dementia is a progressive illness that over time will affect a person's ability to remember and understand basic everyday facts, such as names, dates and places. Dementia will gradually affect the way the person communicates. Their ability to present rational ideas and to reason clearly will change.
If you are looking after a person with dementia, you may find that as the illness progresses you'll have to start discussions in order to get the person to make conversation. This is common. Their ability to process information gets progressively weaker and their responses can become delayed.
Try to start conversations with the person you're looking after, especially if you notice they're starting fewer conversations themselves. However, there are other ways to encourage communication: speak clearly and slowly, using short sentences make eye contact with the person when they're talking, asking questions, or having other conversations don't make them respond quickly, because they may feel pressured if you try to speed up their answers encourage the person to join in conversations with others where possible don't speak on behalf of the person during discussions about their welfare or health issues, as this can make them feel invisible and they may not speak up for themselves in other situations don't patronize the person you're looking after, or ridicule what they say don't dismiss what the person you're looking after says if they don't answer your question or it seems out of context – instead, show that you've heard them and encourage them to say more about their answer avoid asking the person to make complicated choices – keep it as simple as possible you may find that you'll need to use other ways to communicate, and you may have to rephrase questions because the person can't answer in the way they used to
Body language and physical contact
Communication isn't just talking. It also involves gestures, movement, facial expressions and other non-verbal means. Body language and physical contact become more significant when communication is difficult. There are several ways to make communication easier: being patient and remaining calm can help the person communicate more easily keep your tone of voice positive and friendly where possible, because tone is also a means of communication don't stand too close to the person while talking as it can intimidate them – either be on the same level or lower than they are, which is less intimidating patting or holding the person's hand while talking to them can help to reassure them and make you feel closer – watch their body language and listen to what they say to see whether they're comfortable with you doing this
It's important that you encourage the person to communicate what they want however they can. Remember, we all find it frustrating when we can't communicate effectively, or are misunderstood because of language or cultural differences.
Communication is a two-way process. Not only is it important that the person you're looking after is encouraged to use different skills to communicate, as a carer you will probably have to learn to