Remember when you were a little child and the world looked scary and confusing? People said things you didn’t understand and you tried hard to make sense of it. Often a kind word, a smile, or a gentle touch from your parents made things better. People who are affected by dementia are in a similar situation. Brain damage or deterioration has caused their understanding of the world around them to change radically. Easily recognized friends become strangers and the world is once again a dark frightening place. You can help to relieve their fear and anxiety just by reassuring them through your body language and tone of voice.

Communicating With a Family Member or Loved One With Dementia

Increasing Security and Safety in Our Loved Ones

You’ve heard it said that actions speak louder than words. They really do when someone who has dementia is receiving mixed signals from you and is desperately trying to understand your meaning. We as caregivers, family members, or close friends don’t want to be the cause of even more frustration. There are techniques we can use to induce calmness and feelings of safety and security in our loved ones with dementia which include:

  • Avoiding confusion by making certain that your body language reflects a tranquil, reassuring tone of voice,
  • Keeping your voice, body language, and facial expressions peaceful, slow, and relaxed,
  • Maintaining eye contact and respecting personal space,
  • Using gentle loving touches such as hand holding as affirmations,
  • Remaining calm and patient, and
  • Staying aware of your loved one’s facial expressions, reactions, and body language.

Physical Signs and Cues

Your affected friend or relative will give you physical cues if not verbal ones if you need to speak louder, slow down, or offer more emotional support. You’ll be able to see if he or she is doing some brow wrinkling, tearing up, fist clenching, or cheek flushing if he or she is getting frustrated, emotional, or angry. This is when a caring affectionate touch and a comforting voice come in. If your family member or friend is in more distress than you are able to handle, you may need to refer back to any home hospice or hospital care professionals. 

Staying calm and patient is not a guarantee that the person with dementia will not react unexpectedly but you can be assured that you did nothing to cause the outburst and that sometimes our family members and friends need more care than we are able to provide. Your ability to remain understanding and compassionate will go a long way toward proving to your troubled family member or friend that he or she is still loved and valued.

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