Occasionally in the early evening, my phone will ring with my mom asking if I can take her home. These occurrences seem quite strange because she is at her home, the same home that she has been living in for the last 65 years. Each of these phone calls consists of my mother insisting that she “needs to go home” and that she is “held as a prisoner.”

When these requests began, I was unsure how to respond in a way that would offer some reassurance. Attempting to reason with her did not work as it would only make her increasingly more anxious and upset. Driving over to her in hopes of calming her down was not always plausible, so I had to learn better communication techniques to help her through these stressful evening phone calls.

Here are a few tips that will help you better communicate with a person with dementia:

  • Set a positive tone: Speak in a pleasant and respectful manner with a tone of voice that conveys a message of understanding and affection. Refrain from raising your voice.
  • Validate their concern: Repeat their concern and show them you are engaged in hearing more about what they are experiencing.
  • Avoid trying to convince them that they are wrong: A person with dementia has a brain disorder that has changed the way they perceive reality. You will be unsuccessful or met with resistance if you try to convince them otherwise.
  • Speak at a slower pace:  Slowing down the pace of the conversation gives the person with dementia time to process what is being said.
  • Allow them to express their feelings: If they are sad, afraid, worried, or angry, take the time to just listen. Do not dismiss their worries, but instead, show them you are there to listen.
  • Take your time: Being rushed or agitated with the direction of the conversation will only make them more agitated and worsen the situation.
  • Use humor: Try to make them laugh. Persons with dementia retain the ability to laugh about past events and stories.
  • Redirect: If the going is getting tough attempt to change the subject or the environment. Make an effort to distract them with another memory from the past which is often more of a soothing activity.

As my mom’s dementia progressed, I needed to learn how to become a better care partner. I cannot change the progression of this brutal disease, but I can change what I do to help her through some these constant challenges. There are many great online resources to help with dementia care to include Family Caregiver Alliance and the National Alliance for Caregiving. In need of proper care for your loved one? Overwhelmed with the responsibilities of their care? Reach out to Severino Health Advisors to see how we can help.