When a loved one begins to lose their memory, it can be very stressful. For memory care patients, frustration and fear are common. Their loved ones often struggle with how to communicate with them without causing more difficulty and anxiety.
Depending on the advancement of dementia symptoms, conversation topics may vary. Family members should seek to interact with memory care patients with patience and understanding.
Regardless of the progression of their disease, keeping your conversation at a slower pace can help to keep them to process what is being said without feeling pressured or confused. Look them in the eye, speak loud enough for them to hear but with a gentle tone, and be patient when awaiting a response. While you may struggle with topics to bring up, here are some ideas which may make conversation easier.
- Ask “Yes” and “No” Questions: If you ask memory care patients an open-ended question, they may get confused trying to formulate a response. Instead of asking what they would like to do during your visit, ask if they would like to take a short walk. If they are not able to walk, ask if they would like to go sit outside with you. By providing one option at a time, you give them the ability to focus on one thing, making it easier to process their answer.Because you know them well, you should be able to come up with questions where the answer is likely “yes”, which not only allows for a topic of conversation, but provides a meaningful activity. If they seem to be avoiding physical activity, ask a different type . Remember, use your knowledge of them to ask specific questions. Avoid questions like “do you want something to drink?” and say “would you like some chamomile tea?” While many people do not realize it, sharing food and drink is very comforting and familiar to an individual suffering from memory loss.
- Ask for their Feedback: Patients suffering with dementia or Alzheimer’s prefer to contribute to a conversation in which there is no right or wrong answer. Asking for simple feedback on a painting in the facility, or the flowers in the landscaping bed can provide the opportunity for your loved one to express themselves. Not only is there no answer which requires them to remember something, but it reminds them that their opinions count.
- Talk About their Daily Itinerary: Depending on the stage of dementia, your conversations regarding itinerary may vary. However, you can help with visual aids and verbal reminders about what they can expect as the day progresses. For instance, create a large print calendar which outlines daily routine and special appointments such as doctor’s visits or special facility events. When with your loved ones, go over their schedule with them and remind them what they already did, and what is upcoming. This can be very useful for non-regular events, so that they do not feel surprised by a visitor or needed excursion.
- Keep the Conversation Empathetic: When memory care patients lose their train of thought, they can feel like they are not worthy conversationalists. If they lose track of the conversation, a simple admission of “that happens to me too!” and a reminder of what you were discussing can make them understand their lapses need not be conversation killers.
- Be There Emotionally: For all of us, sometimes the most important thing someone can offer is a hug or to sit with us holding our hand. Physical touch is not only a statement of love and affection, it makes memory care patients feel connected to you. That simple connection can help to make them feel more emotionally stable and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Caregivers also find that these moments of contact help to boost their own emotional state.For more information on our Venice memory care facility, visit A Banyan Residence.