5 Tips for Communicating with Seniors Suffering from Memory Loss
August 26, 2020
For an older adult dealing with memory loss, it can be difficult to remember recent conversations, the names of people or objects, things they have done recently, appointments or plans they have made, or all of the above. And while it takes practice to communicate effectively with seniors suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive conditions associated with memory loss, you will be more successful if you have a considered approach and the right tools to assist you. Check out this list of tips to learn how to communicate more effectively with the memory-impaired adult in your life.
Keep it simple
In conversation with an adult with memory problems, be sure to speak simply and clearly. This means when you are asking a question, make it yes or no, rather than open-ended, to help the person narrow down their options. Keep the information you relay clear and matter of fact and repeat it often. Also, try not to bring up complex or abstract subjects; it is best to discuss the concrete, especially what can be observed with the five senses.
Be tactful, be kind
In communicating with an older adult with memory problems, kindness is key. When they forget something, find a tactful way to offer them a reminder or a prompt. When you are in public, you do not need to point out their lapses or highlight when they have forgotten something. And most of all, do not force the issue. If in doubt, ask yourself whether it really matters that the person cannot remember a certain conversation, name, or event.
Another communication rule is to use cues and prompts in conversation and always provide context if you can, rather than being vague. Consider using any illustrations, drawings, or photos you have at hand to get your point across, or if you’re conversing in private, use flashcards to provide additional cues. Finally, a person may recognize an object even if they cannot remember its name, so offer clues first and avoid filling in the blanks for them right away.
Props are your friend
Technological aids such as an automatic calendar clock may be helpful in getting your memory-impaired senior to remember something important, but a prop as simple as a diary or journal they can use to record reminders and events is also useful. Physical objects like sticky notes and wall calendars are good for one-time tasks, while more permanent props work best for regular tasks, like a note on their mirror reminding them to take their medication.
Set the scene
To ease conversation, make sure the senior you are communicating with us in a good state of mind before speaking with them. Make sure they are not too tired or stressed and consider the time of day they are at their best. Also, try not to visit places that are too busy, since they might feel more comfortable communicating in quiet areas. Finally, make sure to use a calm, soothing voice, smile often, and mirror their body language to draw them into your conversation.
The Lodge at Grand Junction’s memory care program employs a wellness-based approach and a professionally trained staff to provide ample support and enrichment for older adults who can no longer live on their own. To learn more, give us a call at (970) 426-0358 or schedule your personal tour.