Effective Dementia Communication Techniques

Effective Dementia Communication

That’s not true!  This is a common response I hear when completing an intake assessment. As I’m asking the person living with dementia questions about their medical history, a family member may respond with that exclamation. While I acknowledge the importance of family members identifying inaccuracies, there are more effective methods to improve dementia communication techniques.

When the phrase, “that’s not true”, is utilized by a family member, I typically see two different responses from the person living with dementia. One is an immediate sense of embarrassment as they lower their head and become quiet. The other response is with agitation, stating, “Yes, it is!”  The latter then leads to an argument, which is certainly uncomfortable for everyone.

My goal is to consistently educate and support family caregivers, fostering improved interactions with persons experiencing a change in cognition. This is beneficial for the well-being of all parties involved.  Let’s explore approaches to enhance the outcomes when the person with dementia has an inaccurate response.  For this example, I asked your dad, “Do you have any problems with your blood pressure?” and he replies, “No”.

There are a few options for responding in this situation depending on the environment, the persons circumstances, and their level of cognitive abilities. A more appropriate response would be, “Dad, do you mind if I share my notes about your history? I have here that you take medication for high blood pressure.  Does that sound right?”

Another option may be, “Dad, when I fill your pill box, I believe I add one every morning for high blood pressure.  Does that sound right?”  You can see that both options included your dad in arriving to the correct history and it allowed him to be a part of the conversation.  No one likes it when someone is talking about them, in front of them.  Modifying your reaction to your dad’s inaccurate medical history prevented him from experiencing embarrassment, sadness and potential anger.

Family caregivers supporting those with dementia should seek ample education on effective communication techniques.  This improves outcomes for your loved one and for you.  Should you require assistance with understanding dementia or dementia communication techniques in the dementia journey, please contact Wellness Strategies Group.