Dementia Communication is Often Non-Verbal

dementia communicationDementia communication can be very challenging until you know some of the cues. Since only about 7% percent of communication is made through actual words/speech, we must be aware of the other 93% of ways in which we convey what we wish to get across. Body language, facial expression, tones and pitch of our voice make up the majority of our actual communication between each other.  For people who have Alzheimer’s disease, other types of dementia or traumatic brain injuries it can be difficult to understand the language of communication but not the “feeling” of the communique.

Tips for Successful Dementia Communication:

1. Be at eye level with the person you are speaking with so that they can see your facial expressions and body language.

2. Speak slowly so that the words can be processed. Impaired cognition makes for slower processing of information.

3. Use visual cues whenever possible.

4. Smile often and if the person doesn’t mind, touch them. The power of touch to express caring and concern is well known. Rub their shoulder or back or hold their hands.

5. Try to avoid conversation by phone as all the visual cues are missing. SKYPE or FaceTime can be useful.

6. Have the person’s hearing checked regularly. If they aren’t hearing your words, they certainly don’t have the opportunity to process them.

7. Become more comfortable with silences.

8. Ask questions with Yes or No or choice A. or B. answers rather than open ended questions which require a greater degree of thought.

9. No need to argue, correct or confront a person with Alzheimer or Dementia, you are entering their reality.

Warm expressions, a calm and relaxed voice can make a positive difference.

Smile often and be sure you are in the person’s field of vision and not to the side. Tone makes a big difference and if you are rushed or pre-occupied, that will come through to the person as dementia affects thought, memory and speech, but not emotions.