When a family member or someone close to you is diagnosed with Dementia, it’s always difficult to know what to do or how to approach the situation. When the dementia progresses rapidly, the person tends to forget things more regularly as well as seeming uninterested and unable to participate in a flowing conversation. It can always seem daunting when it comes to trying to communicate with a loved one who is suffering from this disease, and even more so when trying to connect your child with that loved one.
To mark Dementia Action Week (this year from 17-23 May 2001) organised by the Alzheimer’s society we spoke to Group Support Manager Chris Salter from Forest Healthcare who gave us his 10 tips to help facilitate conversation between your child and the person affected.
- Ensure your child uses eye contact with the person as this will make the feel at ease, you may also want to lower yourself to the persons level and talk to them at a distance, this is to avoid being intimidating.
- Ensure your child remains patient and calm throughout, ensuring you allow the person plenty of time to respond. This can be difficult especially in younger children. Don’t let them interrupt or complete their sentences as this can break the patter of communication and cause confusion.
- Items such as photo albums, music or items are great to try and help them remember things which can help facilitate conversation and help them remember good memories in their life. Perhaps sit your child with the person to promote bonding time and to help them get to know their grandchild.
- Try to stick to one idea at a time, asking easy one point questions. Try phrasing them in a way that allows for a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, or alternatively, in a way that gives the person choice.
- Encourage them to join in conversations with others, sometimes social clubs can be very useful for this type of thing as it encourages them to get out and talk to people more regularly.
- Allow your child to speak clearly and slowly using shorter sentences. Many children are quite blunt so you may want to help them to understand how to speak softer and with more understanding and sympathy.
- Don’t patronise a person suffering with Dementia, ensure you are patient and have respect for them at all times. Talking about the person as if they are not there or talking to them as you would a young child are definite no no’s.
- Try to get rid of any background noise or distractions such as a loud TV or radio, as noise in the background might make them more confused and they may lose their train of thought.
- Refer to their name and try to use it as much as possible. This is harder with children, however even just saying ‘granddad’ or ‘nan’ can actually help them understand who they are and to feel more connected with family.
- Don’t be afraid if there are any silences within the conversation – this can make some people feel awkward but dementia sufferers usually don’t notice this. Just try and be understanding and perhaps listen to music or watch a film together if the conversation is struggling.
>> For more information please visit Forest Healthcare