Communicating with dementia patients
Sometimes, I think we all take our memory for granted. Losing the car keys or trying to recall what is on your shopping list at home can stump even the best of memories. But what if our memories and thoughts were permanently lost? According to the World Health Organization nearly 35.6 million people live with dementia worldwide. The World Health Organization statistics reveal this number is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050. Dementia can be caused by various progressive disorders that affect your memory, thinking, behaviour and your ability to perform your simple everyday activities. Alzheimer's disease is one of the most common causes of dementia. Our brain processes and records our everyday events, with the brain constantly taking pictures, just like a camera does. To use a camera as an example, Dementia sufferers are not able to retrieve the "memory card" of those pictures. In fact, the area of the brain that is affected by dementia never receives the photos or messages. Short term memory is very useful for routine and normal every day activities. The Long-term memory is more for facts and words. This type of memory can be refreshed by recall, but the memories may or will change given time.
More importantly, dementia affects far more than just your memory. Dementia also affects your language, speech, judgement, emotions, and your physical functions such as being able to swallow and keep your balance. Additionally, your thought becomes cloudy and a simple thought process A to C, or 1, 2, 3 can become very difficult. However, there are some tips for those trying to communicate with a loved one: • Tell, don't ask. For example, "It's time for our lunch now. We are going to eat now." • Avoid asking questions such as "Do you want to eat now?" because often, their reply will be "No" . • Stay in the present. For example, say "Hi, Joan. I'm Sarah. It looks like you're ready to get dressed now." • Lead the conversation with statements such as, "We can go outside now. Let's put our coats on." • When offering food, only offer and suggest a few choices such as chocolate or vanilla ice cream. • Avoid starting a conversation with too hard a question. • Be prepared to answer a question as if it's the first time, every time. As it may always be the first time for a person suffering with memory loss or dementia. • Also, try not to get too frustrated by the situation or with the person who has dementia; Remember it's not them but the disease that is causing the communication problems. To help further when communicating with a dementia patient, find activities that you can do together such as listening to music, playing games, doing puzzles, gardening or even line-dancing.