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Dementia

Speech and Language Therapy (SaLT)

A diagnosis of dementia can make a huge impact on the life of the individual and their family. It will affect many aspects of their lives.

One of the most upsetting and frustrating aspects of this condition are the changes and deterioration in the individual’s communication. The most common changes in communication are:

  • They can’t remember what has been said / asked
  • They no longer start conversations
  • They get confused and may become distressed when asked to make decisions or choices
  • They say the same thing again and again
  • They can’t find the right words, particularly the names of objects and people
  • They lose their place in conversation
  • Not understanding what is said and they may take a long time to respond

Below are some strategies to assist in communicating with individuals with advanced dementia:

How you can help

  • The less the person with dementia talks, the less you should talk
  • Address the person by their preferred name
  • As the person understands less, use less spoken language when you communicate
  • Touch. Being with the person and showing warmth and care e.g. gently stroking their hand when they cannot talk anymore or stroking their face, if it is appropriate
  • Speak clearly, calmly and slowly. Go at their pace.  Use a gentle, calm tone of voice
  • Don’t have conversations with other people at the same time, this can be confusing and cause anxiety e.g. one carer talk to the person only and agree this before you start
  • Acknowledge their emotions and communication signals and offer a calm and reassuring presence
  • Body language and facial expressions; these will give away your interest, respect, reassurance, kindness and love BUT it can also give away frustration, impatience, fear and anger
  • Change in behaviour? What could this mean? What are they communicating/ what is the unmet need? Try to problem solve
  • Is the communication environment right? Is there enough light on your face, is there background noise, are their glasses and hearing aids in place?
  • Explain/ show very simply what you are going to do first, you may be disturbing or interrupting the person and may seem to have appeared out of nowhere
  • Play their favourite music; dance, sing to or along with them.  Look at familiar photos with them and talk about the content, ask questions

Please remember

Each person with dementia is an individual and their difficulties will be individual. Speech and Language Therapists who specialise in communication will be able to assist you.