Heart to Heart: Connecting With Your Loved Ones Through Dementia

Doing life with someone who has dementia can be a challenging experience for families and friends, given the unpredictable nature of the condition. Changes in the person’s needs and behaviors can occur frequently, making it difficult to connect with them. Additionally, the communication gap caused by dementia can also pose a challenge in understanding their needs, as individuals with dementia may have trouble expressing themselves or comprehending others, leading to frustration and misunderstandings.

People with dementia can also experience changes in mood, personality, and behavior. Sure, they will have good days, but on the not-so-good days they may become irritable, agitated, withdrawn, or express the lack of desire to go on with life. This can not only be scary but it makes it hard to connect with them on their level.

Thankfully, it is still possible to maintain a meaningful relationship with someone who has dementia.

6 Ways to Help you Connect with your Loved Ones Through Dementia

1. Be Present and Patient
This is essential. It’s important to be in the moment and not rush through conversations. Dementia can cause individuals to have trouble expressing themselves, so giving them time to find the right words is critical. You may have to sit with them longer but being present and patient in this moment can make a huge difference. Try and avoid interrupting or finishing sentences for them, as this can be frustrating and cause confusion for them.

2. Use Non-Verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication, such as touch, facial expressions, and body language, can be a powerful tool for connecting with someone who has Dementia. Holding hands, hugging, and gentle touches can convey emotions and show affection. A smile, a nod, or a reassuring pat on the back can also be effective ways to communicate without words.

3. Use Familiar Items
Using familiar items, such as photographs, favorite objects, or personal belongings, can provide a sense of continuity and help anchor the person with dementia in the present moment. Looking through old photos can help trigger memories and stimulate conversation about past events and experiences. This can be beneficial for cognitive function as well as improved connectivity.

4. Engage in Activities Together
Engaging in activities together can provide a sense of purpose and enjoyment for both the individual with dementia and their loved ones. Simple activities like taking a walk, playing a game, or cooking a meal can provide opportunities for meaningful connections and shared experiences. Play a brain-boosting game such as our Catchphrase Challenge activity—A FREE download.

5. Create a Calming Environment
Creating a calming environment can help reduce their stress levels and promote a sense of safety and well-being. Soft lighting, calming music, and familiar objects can all contribute to a peaceful atmosphere. This can help them feel more at ease and connected to their surroundings, which can improve their ability to communicate, interact with others, and engage in meaningful activities.

6. Show Empathy and Understanding
This is one of the hardest ones to do especially when you are experiencing caregiver burnout. Listen to their concerns, acknowledge their emotions, and provide validation. Validation techniques involve acknowledging and accepting the person’s emotions and experiences, even if they do not match reality. This can help them feel more comfortable and connected in their interactions.

Are you a caregiver? If you need a break, we offer Respite Care Visits. You might also consider joining one of our caregiver support groups or attend Memory Cafe.

Caregiver Support Group (Caregivers only)
Every Monday 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Risen Savior Lutheran Church, Room 110 23914 S Alma School Rd.

Memory Cafe
The Cafe is operational every Monday(except holidays).  
9:30 – 10:00 a.m. – Coffee, Water, and Pastries
10:00 – 11:00 a.m. – Support Group and Engagement Session run concurrently beginning at 10:00 a.m.
Sun Lakes United Methodist Church (education building – far north parking building) 9248 E. Riggs Rd.

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