Clients with dementia can have difficulty communicating preferences and decisions, but health care professionals still have a duty to observe DIPPS protocol with these patients. Therefore, carers must focus extra attention on achieving effective communication when clients have dementia.
To improve understanding in both directions when working with a client who has dementia, please practice these tips, provided by the Mayo Clinic (2019):
- Be patient. Take time to listen and allow time for the person with dementia to talk without interruption.
- Learn to interpret. Try to understand what is being said based on the context. If the person is struggling to get an idea out, offer a guess.
- Be connected. Make eye contact while communicating, and call the person by name. Hold hands while talking to keep them anchored to the conversation.
- Be aware of your nonverbal cues. Speak calmly. Keep your body language relaxed.
- Offer comfort. If a person with dementia is having trouble communicating, let him or her know it’s okay and provide gentle encouragement.
- Show respect. Avoid baby talk and diminutive phrases, such as “good girl.” Don’t talk about the person as if he or she weren’t there.
- Avoid distractions. Limit visual distractions and background noise, such as a TV or radio, that can make it difficult to hear, listen attentively or concentrate.
- Keep it simple. Use short sentences. As the disease progresses, ask questions that require a yes or no answer. Break down requests into single steps.
- Offer choices. Offer choices when making a request for something a person might resist. For example, if someone is reluctant to shower, you might say, “Would you like to take a shower before dinner or after dinner?”
- Use visual cues. Sometimes gestures or other visual cues promote better understanding than words alone. Rather than asking if the person needs to use the toilet, for example, take him or her to the toilet and point to it.
- Avoid criticizing, correcting and arguing. Don’t correct mistakes. Avoid arguing when the person says something you disagree with.
- Take breaks. If you’re frustrated, take a time-out. (Mayo Clinic, 2019)