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Dementia Care Guide: Dementia and Conversation

Abstract: Dementia care guide: A list of things you should think of to successfully talk to a person who is suffering from dementia or alzheimers disease.

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Dementia Care Guide: Dementia and Conversation

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Question(s): 
Written by: Martin Winkler
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 27 Feb 2012.

My father is an 86 year old man with dementia. We have big problems with establishing a good conversation because he gets angry and agitated. What can I do?

Answer:

LEARNING HOW TO TALK WITH A PERSON WHO HAS DEMENTIA

People with Dementia have communication and memory deficits. They might be disturbed by hallucinations or impaired by additional cognitive disturbances of a depressive syndrome. These people need special care and a calm and structured environment!

  • Identify yourself by name and call the person by name. Don't get frustrated if the person (even your mother or father) is not able to remember your name.

  • Keep eye and try to approach the person from the front. A gentle touch is very helpful!

  • Try to avoid background sounds or other communications and visual distractions (TV).

  • Use short sentences and very familiar words and expressions.

  • Ask simple questions which can be answered with yes or no.

  • Use gestures and maybe additional written information or pictures.

  • Try to establish signals for special tasks (e.g. going to the toilet or having a bath).

  • Keep the conversation short!

    However, if you feel the person gets frustrated and cannot follow the conversation, stop it and try again after a rest.

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