What are some factors, challenges, and strategies for communication with patients that have dementia?
Most of our communication is nonverbal. Our verbal communication is only about 7% of what we communicate. Everything else is body language, pitch, tone, sentence structure, loudness, facial expressions, and even silence.
Factors Affecting Communication
- Family/staff stress and frustration
- Distractions in the environment
- As dementia progresses, the ability to correctly interpret communication decreases
- Depression and anxiety
Challenges in Communication
- Word-finding difficulty
- Unable to read or understand written communication
- They may revert back to their native language
- They may lose their ability to speak in sentences
- Loss of the ability to understand
- Unable to use words
So what can you do? Communication strategies include:
- Avoid arguing and reasoning.
- Ask those closed-ended questions or something that we all forced choice. So instead of saying, hey, what do you wanna do today, you can say, would you like to walk outside, or would you like to walk over here, so giving them a choice.
- Observe the nonverbals.
- Give them time to respond. Oftentimes we rush them.
- Speak slowly, clearly, audibly
- Be ready to repeat
- Use short sentences
- Use their name
- Use gestures/visual cues
- Use adult language
- Avoid shouting
- Be an active listener
- Use eye contact.
- Use touch.
Do all of those things so that the person knows you are talking to them, you are communicating with them, and then they'll be an active communication partner right back to you.