woman with dementia holding hands with her daughter Dementia is a progressive disease that destroys brain cells in, most commonly, older individuals. We can never fully understand what dementia is like until someone we love is diagnosed. It can be hard to put yourself in that person’s shoes. Imagine the frustration you would feel if you were unable to recall memories and effectively communicate with others.

When you visit a family member suffering from dementia, keep these tips in mind to help guide your conversation.

1. Avoid Causing Confusion

When engaged in conversation with a loved one who has dementia, try to stay focused on one topic at a time. Confusion and hallucinations can often lead to agitation and this change can happen at any time. If your loved one becomes upset, try to distract him or her from the distress and redirect the conversation to a more calming topic.

2. Be Attentive

When you make the trip to visit a loved one, you should refrain from the use of electronics and other distractions. If your head is buried in a book, you can make your loved one feel uneasy. Although communication with a dementia patient can be challenging at times, it is key to fighting against the progression of a disease like Alzheimer’s.

3. Mind Your Tone of Voice

Individuals want to feel respected and dignified by others, at all stages in life. When people use “baby talk” or other condescending tones around dementia patients, they can become agitated and take that frustration out on you. Avoid harsh tones in your voice, even when you feel helpless to make a difference in your loved one’s behavior.

4. Pay Attention to Your Non-Verbal Cues

Although individuals with dementia are suffering from a progressive cognitive disease, they are still aware of their surroundings and can have reactions to your behavior. If you’re having a conversation, but avoiding eye contact and frowning, your loved one may believe something is wrong. Smiling and nodding your head throughout a visit can help calm and reassure dementia patients that they’re in a safe place.

5. Play Music

Various studies have shown the many psychological benefits of music. Beyond the soothe of rhythmic tones, music can help keep cognitive awareness sharp. For dementia patients, playing a favorite song or artist may spark an emotion or memory in them that is calming, joyful or funny. Music therapy may help your loved one reach cognitive goals in the early stages of a disease like vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s.

To learn more about visiting loved ones at our skilled nursing facility, contact Avon Health Center today!