The person may be leaving but the company is still appreciated and loved.
It’s really hard to watch a friend, partner or relative slip away with dementia. It’s like the person is sitting there in front of you, but somehow they’re disappearing. They’re gone. A void has taken their place, and no doubt, it’s extremely saddening.
But while it can feel like there is no use in visiting the person anymore, or talking with them as the conversation could be wandering or completely one-sided, it’s worth the effort.
Everyone is different but for many patients, having a visitor hold their hand and talk of familiar places and events from long ago can be comforting.
You may find that the visit is fulfilling for you too. Knowing you are doing what you can to help someone you love can offer emotional comfort in difficult times.
Related: Early Signs of Dementia Checklist
Here are 6 tips from the experts, on how to talk with someone who has dementia in the middle-to-late stages:
1) Go with Their Fantasies
Once a person has developed Alzheimer’s, they may talk of people who have already passed away as if they’re alive, jump between decades in their thoughts and ramble. The best path in the conversation is that of least resistance-just go with it. If the person asks when their deceased husband will be home from work, tell them “soon”.
Denying the reality in the patient’s head can make them more confused and feel a sense of shame, if they realize their mistake.
2) Take Your Time
Speaking at a slower pace can help. The patient may be able to understand you fully, and if they do, familiar words and simple phrases can work best. Avoid presenting many ideas in one sentence, to limit confusion.
3) Avoid Arguing
It can be hard to accept that the mind of someone close to you is changing. If you ask how the movie was they just saw and they disagree saying that they never saw anything, resist the urge to argue back.
Accept the patient’s reality and try to talk about something else. Instead of relying on memories, you can also ask simple things, such as how they like what they are eating or the pattern on a shirt. It’s in the present.
Related: What is Pick’s Disease?
4) Use Visuals
If a person is in the early-to-middle stages of Alzheimer’s, they may be able to remember quite a lot, depending on the moment. Bringing photos with you to talk about events involving people you know, or familiar places, can help to bring knowledge to mind for the patient.
Also, anything that can give a visual clue as to what you are talking about can be helpful, even if it’s a chair or a table. The patient might have forgotten in the moment what the words you are saying mean.
5) Ask One Question at a Time
This one goes along with #2. Take your time and also, keep the conversation simple. Ask one question at a time, so as to allow for the best experience.
6) Rest Assured: It’s OK If You Have Nothing to Say
A person with Alzheimer’s, no matter how advanced their disease, appreciates you. They appreciate your company even if they can’t express it. Simply holding their hand or playing music they enjoy can give them comfort, something that they will cherish.
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