Aging in Style with Lori Williams
Aging in Style with Lori Williams

Episode · 1 year ago

042. 5 Tips for Communicating With a Loved One Diagnosed With Dementia


Though many people have loved ones with dementia, they don’t always know the best way to communicate with them.
Senior Services Expert Lori Williams often relays tips to people whose parents have dementia – and they often realize they’re not putting them into practice.

Lori’s 5 tips can help you and your loved one with dementia live more peacefully and stress-free. It can be difficult tending to family with memory loss, but interacting with them effectively can help their mood and well-being (and yours).

Topics discussed:
- Alzheimer’s, dementia and short-term memory
- Communicating with people with dementia
- Caregiving support
- Practicing patience

Takeaways from this episode:
- It helps to differentiate between your loved one’s disease and them as a person. If they knew how they were acting, they might be embarrassed or mortified.
- Treat them with respect by maintaining eye contact, speaking clearly and at a moderate pace, and using shorter sentences.
- Join your family on their journey rather than correcting them. It’s often not worth the effort and in their mind, their reality is correct.
- Avoid arguing with them because you risk agitating them, embarrassing them or making them upset.
- Don’t remind them if a loved one has passed away. Each time they remember it can be like reliving it the first time. It also serves no purpose if they’ll just forget in 5 minutes.
- Demonstrate to your loved ones that you’re listening to them and trying to understand what they’re saying. Even if they repeat themselves often, try to be patient.

Resources mentioned in this episode:
008. Dementia Journey Through a Daughter's Perspective:

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Welcome to aging in style with me, Laurie Williams. I'm an optimist by nature and I believe you can follow your dreams at any age. My grandmother's journey with dementia ignited a passion in me to work with seniors. I've spent the past thirteen years learning about seniors and aging. In my mid S, I followed my own dream and founded my company, where I use my expertise to help seniors locate housing and resources. On this podcast, we cover all aspects of aging. Joannas each week to meet senior living experts and inspirational seniors who are following their dreams. The fact is, we're all aging, so why not do it in style? I welcome to this episode of aging in style with Laurie Williams. I'm so glad you're here today, and today's topic is five tips for communicating with a loved one who's been diagnosed with dementia. I wanted to tackle this topic because working in senior living, I get a lot of cost from people who have parents with dementia and just in talking sometimes...

I may just throw out a tip and they're like wait, what, I okay, I have I haven't been doing that and you know, when they implement what I mentioned, suddenly things are a lot better and arguments have gone away or the stress. So so here are some of the tips that I think. I mean, there's a lot of good tips out there, but these are the top five of that I want to share with yell today, bearing in mind that with dementia communication with your family member it becomes harder. People diagnosed with dementia just have a harder time obviously expressing themselves. They have a hard time, you know, remembering words, trying to pull you know, they know what they want to say sometimes but they can't say it or they're talking gibberish to you. It can become frustrating, not only for them, but it's can be frustrating for you, especially if you're the caregiver. So let's talk about five different ways that we can make make it easier,...

...make communication easier, kind of alleviate some of that agitation. So number one, super important. Always treat them with respect. Alzheimer's or dementia. You know, it's a disease. This is not who they who they are, and they would probably be mortified to know you know what they're saying to you or how they're acting. So treat them with respect and dignity. Don't talk down to them or speak to others in the room as if they're not even there. You know, it's important to really maintain eye contact, speak clearly to them. I'm not too fast, not too slow. It's better if you can talk and like shorter sentences. Not Ask them a lot of questions. You know that open into questions, especially if they're further advanced with their dementia. Number to avoid criticizing or correcting them, and this is a big one, because I you know, I know people. They don't they don't mean it to come across this way and they think sometimes that they're doing the...

...right thing. But you know, I've had family members tell me, well, I think she can do better, I think she's being lazy, and they'll criticize and I'm just like no, no, no, no, it's the disease. I mean why why correct them? And you know if they're telling the story and you know it's completely wrong, but in their mind it's it happened. But why would you risk embarrassing them, especially if there's still alert enough to realize that they're they've made a mistake. So there's a term that one of the big senior communities had coined several years ago and it's called join their journey, and I love that because it's so simple and it's so easy to remember. With someone with dementia, join in on their journey. Don't try to make them come into your reality. Just go with go with it, go with the flow. And this example I can give of this as several years ago I was visiting a nursing home and I walked in.

I had an appointment, but as I walked in there was a lady just kind of like walked up to me and she was a cute just could be and she was so excited to a huge smile on her face. She was so happy to see me and I think she called me a name, as some name like, I don't know, an or whatever it may have been, and she said, Oh, I'm so glad you're here. Are you ready for the picnic? And did you bring the Potato Salad, because your potato salad is always the best, and I'm just like yeah, sure, yes, I did, and you know I wasn't going to say no, I'm not who you think I am. And I did not bring the potato salad because, you know what, what, what would that do other than embarrass her and maybe cause her to be, you know, feel very agitated? So so I just joined her journey and I went and sat down with her. It was maybe five minutes and we had the best conversation about, you know, going on this picnic and about this great potato salad. And...

...guys, I can't make potato salad. I don't think I've ever made potato salad, but at that time and that lady's mind, I made the best potato salad in the world and we just talked and it was just so beautiful and you know, then we just we ended it. She was happy and you know that that was wonderful. So what does what does that take from you to just join in on their journey? You know, it's easier to do that than to embarrass them or cause them anxiety and SHRUSS. Number three, avoid arguing with them, and that kind of goes along with the number two, which was criticizing correcting. I mean, if you try to argue with them a you're not going to win. You're going to end upsetting them and making them angry. You're going to be upset and angry. You know, for example, your mother is telling a story how she maybe she's saying she lived in Houston. Well, she never lived in Houston and you know she never lived there, but she's telling the story and she's talking about people...

...that you don't know what she's talking about. Just let her talk. Don't say mother, no, you know we never lived in Houston. I don't know why you're saying that and keep trying to for some into your reality. Don't do that, because they're just going to end up agitated and frustrated and that's not good for anyone. Tip Number for Oh Gosh y'all. This one comes up so much, and I know this is a hard one, but don't remind them over and over that a spouse, a parent or child has died. All you're going to end up doing is upsetting them. And I recently had a family and you know, I know the daughter felt she was doing the right thing, but the mother had dementia. The father had passed away a few weeks prior and so she kept he'd been our caregiver, so she kept asking for him, and then the daughter would say mom, he died. Remember, he's passed away. Remember we went to his funeral and...

...would just go through the whole thing with her, and so each time her mother was reliving it like it had just happened. I mean, I just can't imagine causing that kind of pain, because it's the same pain every time. You know. Another example, and I know my own grandmother did this, she would ask where her mom was, and what purpose would it serve to say, you know, your mom died ninety years ago. No, I mean we would say, oh, she just went to this store and then just redirect, you know, just go on to something else. Another example of this, as a personal example that I have is that when my husband and I were in our S, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. She had lung cancer and it metastasize to her brain and so she had a brain tumor and when they went in and took the brain tumor out, it was like she had dementia. And of course, I mean we were young, we had never really experienced dementia at this point, or what was dementia... behavior, which is what she had, and she was very confused, a lot of short term memory loss and she only had a few months left to live and so what happened was my husband's brother was cold in a car accident, and so I remember he and I talking about it and it was just like, I mean just instinctually we were both were like, we can't tell her because she's not going to remember and she's going to keep asking because it was just, you know, the short term memory loss. So we didn't tell her and we felt that was out of a kindness. Honestly. Why give her that pain, you know, to know that her son had been killed in a car accident and then she would ask probably again ten minutes later? And then she did died just a few months after that. You know, and I know that's a hard one, guys, and because I know you want to tell them and you feel like they should know, but you have to stop and think, what purpose is it really going to serve if they're not going to remember five minutes later? Fifth tip be patient and...

...supportive. is so important that your loved one knows that you're listening to them. You're listening, you're trying to understand what they're saying. Sometimes it's a really hard you want to be patient. You know, for example, we had some really close friends. They were like family and they would come over and the mother had dementia, and so we come to visit my house and I had a house that had, like, couldn't like fake plants up high above the cabinets, and every time she would come to it's like, how do you get up there to water those plants? And they were fake, and so I'd say, Oh, they're fake, I don't even have to get up there. Five minutes later, how do you get up there to water those plants? And so I mean, you know, you can get frustrated with that because the question is asked twenty times in a row, but you know that they they can't help it. So just be patient, be...

...supportive, repeat yourself over and over. What's IT gonna Matter? Just just repeat yourself and don't worry about it. Don't interrupt them, even if it takes them a while to communicate their thoughts and you know, maybe they're going around in circles and you have no clue what they're talking about. Just go back to being patient and supportive and, of course, back to tip number one, cheat them with respect. Anyhow, those are our five tips. I hope it will help you in your communication with your loved one. Who has dementia or share it with friends who are you know have a family member with dementia. To learn more and find more resources, please visit my website, which is Lari Williams senior Servicescom. If you have a specific question about dementia or have a topic you would like us to address, just send me a message. All Right, thanks, guys, for listening and we will talk to you next week. By Bye.

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