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Communication and Dementia

March 24, 2016

By Editor
Communication is an essential part of who we are as human beings; it’s something many of us take for granted. In terms of dementia, language and communication problems are well-recognized clinical components of the disease and are estimated to occur in almost all individuals living with it. Due to the gradual decline in language impairment, communication difficulties may lead to frustration, confusion and agitation for the individual and their caregivers. If the needs of the person with dementia (PWD) are not being met then their behaviour may be misunderstood and as a result, the PWD may begin to feel isolated due to an inability to communicate properly.
In the early stages of dementia, the person's communication may not be impacted to a great degree although many caregivers find that their loved one might repeat stories or struggle to find words. As the disease progresses, a caregiver may recognize other changes in their loved one such as losing their train of thought and having difficulty with grammar and sentence structure. Eventually as the disease progresses into the later stages, the person’s ability to communicate becomes extremely limited, if present at all.
This gradual loss of communication is one of the most difficult challenges for caregivers, friends and family members to accept; it is that vital connection that is lost. However, it is important to acknowledge that while a person with dementia may well struggle to find the right words (or any words at all) or understand what is being said; they still have strong emotional senses. Thus, communicating with someone with dementia is still imperative. Learning how to effectively communicate can improve the quality of life for a person with dementia and improve the caregiving experience as well.

Here are just a few of the ways that can help you understand and communicate with your loved one:
·       Believe that communication is possible at all stages of dementia. 
·       Learn to interpret the person’s messages by paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues.
·       Focus on the person’s abilities and skills by encouraging the person to communicate in ways that work for them.
·       Try to create a sense of comfort and reassurance to the individual by remaining positive.
·       Accept their new reality. If the person’s perception of reality becomes confused, try to find creative ways around the situation rather than reacting negatively.
·       Avoid contradicting the person or trying to convince them that what they believe is untrue or inaccurate.

Communicating with someone with dementia may seem like a difficult task, but it does not always have to be.

Be sure to join us on Thursday, April 7th at 7:00pm at Kiwanis Seniors Community Centre for our Speaker Series focused on communication for persons with dementia. The presentation will feature Kerry King, a speech language pathologist, Dr. Gloria Grace, a clinical neuropsychologist and Barbara Bentley an audiologist.
Topics for this Speaker Series include:
·         Understanding why communication changes happen ( with a focus on the physiological changes in brain)
·         Communication approaches for caregivers
·         Communication support for persons with dementia
·          Impact of hearing on dementia and communication
 For more details about this speaker series event, please visit: our website.