How to communicate with someone who has a cognitive impairment – Part 5
I would again like to thank Kate Smith from Memory Matters some of the information for this blog.
It is important to remember that no two people with a cognitive impairment will communicate or present in the same way, but here are some more ideas that will hopefully help.
People with dementia are often very good at reading body language and at interpreting tone of voice, even when fairly confused. It is more respectful therefore to tell the truth, rather than challenge their view of reality. If the person with dementia is awake and wandering about in the middle of the night because they believe it is day time, rather than tell them they are wrong, it is better to suggest that they go to bed and if they don’t want to, then sit and chat about the weather or distract them in some other way and later suggest they go to bed. It is far less confrontational than telling them that they have made a mistake about time and they should go to bed, it can lead to them feeling shame for getting something wrong!
When you are with a person with dementia and their carer, it is best to talk to the person with dementia and not their carer if that is possible and if talking about them, ask permission to talk to the carer. It can just make them feel uncomfortable if they are being talked over rather than to.
People with dementia don’t like to be tested about things, the rest of us don’t go through our lives being tested, so they might not want to answer questions if a lot of them are being asked at once. So make the person feel comfortable and if you need information, see if you can get it in a more conversational way, instead of lots of questioning.
If at all possible, it is better not to say “don’t! As soon as anyone is told “don’t do that” or “you can’t”, people do exactly what they have been told not to, it is human nature! It is much better to redirect to something else and only at the point their life is at risk should they be directly challenged, if not, then they can be distracted instead, it is a much nicer way to behave towards people with dementia.
Everyone is different, not everything that I have discussed in this series of blogs is relevant to everyone, but hopefully it will be helpful, if you ever meet someone with a dementia.
It is also important to remember that the skills that relate to dementia are transferrable to other disabilities and situations.
Be calm, be happy, smile and this will have an impact on the person with dementia, this will be perceived by the person with dementia and they will appreciate that you are a safe person for them to be around.