How Dementia Impacts Communication
If you have a loved one with dementia, you may have experienced challenges when communicating. As dementia progresses, it can cause memory problems and cognitive impairments that seriously impact communication. Let’s go over what dementia is, the communication problems it causes, and how you can address them.
What Is Dementia and What Types Are There?
Dementia is not a single, specific condition — rather, it’s a syndrome that’s characterized by mental deterioration that negatively affects daily life. Although dementia can appear at an early age, it’s usually found in adults who are 65 or older. The cause of dementia varies depending on the type. Well-known causes of dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s disease: This is the most common form of dementia and is caused by dying brain cells.
- Frontotemporal dementia: This occurs when the frontal and temporal lobes lose function.
- Lewy body dementia: This dementia is the result of protein deposits in nerve cells.
- Vascular dementia: This dementia is caused by a blood flow blockage to the brain’s nerve cells.
- Mixed dementia: This term is used when an individual has two types of dementia at once.
While each version of dementia has a different cause, they all feature similar symptoms. Patients with dementia often experience memory loss, cognitive decline, mood changes, and serious challenges with regular communication.
How Does Dementia Affect Communication?
Now that you have a clearer view of what dementia is, you might be wondering, “How does dementia impact communication skills?” While effects vary from one individual to the next, most dementia patients struggle with the following:
- Language: Dementia can trigger changes in the brain’s temporal lobe, which affects a person’s ability to understand words.
- Speech: Not only do dementia patients struggle with understanding language, but they may also experience difficulty speaking, finding the right words, and projecting their voices.
- Sight: Many people with dementia have difficulty detecting movement, which causes heightened confusion.
- Hearing: According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there’s a correlation between dementia and hearing loss.
- Reading and writing: As dementia worsens, it may become harder to read and write.
- Memory: It’s common for dementia patients to experience memory loss and confusion.
As the disease progresses, it can become increasingly harder for people with dementia to communicate effectively. As a result, many dementia patients experience confusion and fear, while friends and family members may feel frustrated or upset. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve communication.
How to Communicate Effectively When Someone Is Experiencing Dementia
Dementia affects communication in many ways, and it can become increasingly difficult to communicate. Here are a few tips on engaging with someone who has dementia.
Use Body Language
It’s estimated that 70%-90% of communication is nonverbal. When communicating with someone experiencing dementia, it becomes increasingly important to be aware of our body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. They may not be able to tell us what they need or want, so we need to also pay attention to what they may be trying to tell us by observing their body language/facial expressions, including:
- Hand gestures
- Head nodding
- Eye contact
Ultimately, body language is a great tool for both communication and encouragement. Hand gestures and facial expressions can help you convey a message or emotion, while a simple smile or nod can show someone that you care and want to help.
While they may not be able to process information as quickly as they used to, most dementia patients can still pick up on negative social cues. Anything from an eye roll to a frown can discourage someone with dementia from attempting to communicate. To keep someone motivated, do the following:
- Give them time to respond to questions.
- Avoid being condescending or patronizing.
- Ask them to join conversations.
- Let them speak for themselves.
- Use a calming, positive tone.
It’s important for dementia patients to try to communicate as much as possible, even if their abilities are declining. Encouraging someone with dementia to continue communicating can help ensure that verbal, motor and cognitive skills continue to be utilized.
Get Professional Help
Helping a loved one who has dementia isn’t easy, especially when their communication skills are impacted by cognitive decline. In addition to keeping them engaged, you have to anticipate their needs, assist with activities of daily living and manage health requirements. This could include anything from scheduling doctor’s appointments and providing ambulatory assistance to grooming and administering medication.
If you find yourself overwhelmed or you’re worried your loved one is not receiving the care they deserve, it may be time to turn to a professional community, such as Cedar Creek Memory Care.
Cedar Creek Memory Care: Contact Us Today!
At Cedar Creek Memory Care, we provide a safe, nurturing environment where residents with dementia can receive assistance with daily living, have medical oversight, and socialize with other residents. Along with a cozy home, we offer memory care activities designed to improve the cognitive and communication skills of dementia residents. Our homes are located in Maryland, specifically in the following areas:
- Silver Spring
In addition to dementia care, we provide end-of-life care services. Our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life for both residents and their families. If you’d like to learn more about our homes, don’t hesitate to contact us online or call us at 301-384-4017