This year’s theme, ‘Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s,’ continues on from the 2021 campaign, which focused on diagnosis and the warning signs of dementia. The 2022 campaign will aim to highlight the importance of support for people living with dementia and families following a diagnosis.
By continuing to raise awareness and knowledge, caregivers, families and communities are better equipped with information and advice which prepares them to adapt and support those who are directly affected.
Dementia impacts the mental, physical, financial, social, and spiritual health of everyone it touches, but expression of love and meaningful engagement with loved ones with the illness helps weather the storm. Communicating with a person with memory loss can be challenging especially for families. *Below are a few communication strategies which can help families foster a more fulfilling relationship with loved ones living with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease:
Don’t ask a person with dementia a short-term memory question – A family member might ask, “What did you have for breakfast?” The person with memory loss doesn’t remember at all. They might say, “I haven’t had anything to eat for weeks,” rather encourage loved ones to tell you stories. You can even use photos to encourage stories. Photos are good long-term memory reminders.
Don’t correct them – A loved one with memory loss often shows progression in terms of their problems with language. For example, they ask you to pass the salt when they meant to say sugar. Stop yourself from correcting them i.e. “You meant to say the sugar, so here’s the sugar.” People with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s may also ask repetitive questions. It’s perfectly okay to give the same answer again if it helps to keep a loved one calm and less distraught.
Don’t talk down to them – Family members should never talk down to the individual with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, and this especially includes baby talk, which doesn’t work neurologically (and it’s insulting). The communication style should still be to a respected, older adult. If the loved one is having trouble understanding you, the message may be too complex. Use basic words and simple sentences. Keep questions brief and answerable: “yes” or “no” questions
Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease is perplexing because we cannot see the disease—the way we see a broken arm—it’s even more confusing when families see how their loved ones will have good and bad days, days when they’re alert and clear-headed and days when they are not so. On days that are difficult you will have to really on your love for them to endure that storm.
Social Work Manager
*Adapted from How to Talk to Someone with Dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Memory LossBy mmLearn.org on Tue, May 28, 2019