Learning to talk to someone who is living with dementia if you don’t know already can be a minefield. But I also think it should be something EVERYONE should know about.
No one is perfect when it comes down to this, myself included but it irritates me when I see supposed professionals not even trying!
There is are a couple of great blog posts at the end which can say it far better than myself, please do check them out below. But here are a few key points I would summarise or add to this discussion with examples:
1. Do not talk about the person like they are not in the room.
‘Oh yeah, John Doe often this, that and the other.’ And he is still sitting right there. Even if that happened to you right now, and they were talking about you as if you were not there, didn’t acknowledge you at all, you would be pissed.
It’s exactly the same for them. They may not be able to express themselves in such a way that answers your question, or even care, but include them.
The example I have was sitting down with my fathers minister after he came out of the hospital and trying to explain to him he has Alzheimer’s, telling him this is what happened and how he is affected. How can you have that conversation with my Dad sitting right next to me without being disrespectful? On top of that, he will not acknowledge he has any kind of issue. So I went along the lines of:
‘So what happened is that, that and the other, isn’t that right father? ‘
‘And me and you did this together …’ (addressing my father)
‘Also sometimes you can forget the odd simple thing (addressing my Dad), and it’s just something to acknowledge and roll with and help where you can (addressing the minister). It’s not a big matter but…’
2. Do not say ‘I just told you that’
Or ‘Don’t you remember you just watered the flowers in the garden!’
‘I just told you my train is leaving at 5’
Patience is a virtue and I just try and either say it again or distract or inform in other ways. He has just watered the flowers in the garden 3 times already in the space of half an hour. I would say, ‘Why don’t you show me all the different kinds you have here?’ Or ‘Why don’t we feel the soil to see if it wet or dry?’
If I say ‘But Father you have already watered the plants 3 times already, let’s just leave it and go out.’ He will be in a mood for the rest of the day and say, ‘Why didn’t you let me water the flowers, now they will die.’ There is no telling him any different (for as long as he remembers, and sometimes they will surprise you and remember it longer than you wish 😉 hahha)
3. Don’t start sentences in such a way you are expecting a solid answer.
What I mean by this is ‘Don’t you remember this, what was the place again??’ because it puts pressure on them to remember something they really might not know, and might not remember. Isn’t it the most annoying thing in the world for example when you have an ear worm and you simply can’t put your finger on the singer or name of the song? I can only imagine its like that but worse, like how many children you have :l
You can never tell if someone has dementia just from looking at them, but you can never know when these ideas can come in handy, so just keep them in mind when you can and the situaution or conversation will be better for it.
Give these blogs a go too!