When it comes to dementia, interacting can be challenging. Everyone wants to connect, and being able to stay engaged with people living with dementia is essential. To share this connection, someone needs to change how we have a conversation. And it’s easier for the person who’s not living with dementia to do that.
Founder and Co-CEO of Group Homes Australia, Tamar Krebs, shares 5 tips for interacting with someone living with dementia.
It is important to remain curious about how to best connect with the person living with dementia. What worked yesterday may not work today. Remember to celebrate the moment and focus on what the person living with dementia can still do, rather than the things they are no longer able to do.
Be aware of information overload
In any interaction, we want to guide the person living with dementia. Think about how much information is being introduced into the conversation. An information overload can leave the person living with dementia feeling lost in the conversation, which may impact their ability to interact. For example, when ordering from a menu, instead of offering endless choices, offer a specific choice: “would you like a tea or coffee?”. By doing this, we don’t take away the act of choosing, or choose for them and exclude them from the interaction entirely.
Using different words
During a conversation, a person living with dementia may have difficulty keeping up with the thread of the conversation. When this happens instead of asking “do you remember?”, we should try simply repeating what was said.
Using different types of cues during a conversation can also be beneficial. For example, showing photos or videos from a phone to help tell a story, rather than using lots of words.
Be in the moment
It’s not important what happened yesterday or what is supposed to happen tomorrow, what matters the most about an interaction is cherishing the moment, and the fact that in that moment there is a positive interaction.
Try doing something together. Look at a photo album or go on a walk. Interactions do not always have to be a conversation and doing something active or practical can be beneficial to both people.
Let things go
We know at times people living with dementia can become repetitive. Remembering that although you have heard them say something a number of times, for them, it’s the first time. Learning to let things go and saying to yourself ‘they’re doing as good a job as they can’, can impact positively on an interaction.
As a person’s dementia journey progresses, interactions can change. It’s up to everyone else to press pause, reset, remain curious and re-engage.
If we can assist with answering any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our Resident Relations Manager for support on 1300 015 406 or email Group Homes Australia Home Support Office. The Group Homes Australia (GHA) care model is firmly built on the belief that people living with dementia thrive in a home environment. GHA homes are ordinary homes, on ordinary suburban streets, where 6 to 10 residents live together. Residents have 24-hour care, provided by a team of staff that we call ‘Homemakers’.