Sunday, 29 April 2012

Nerves, Muscles and Laughter

I recently came across some very simple but helpful guidelines for talking to peole suffering from dementia. Ten things that, if put into practice, really help.  A person with dementia is experienceing loss of memory, mood swings, anxiety and problems with communication and reasoning. 
  • Remember that mood and atmoshpere are very important; how you say things and your tone of voice is more important than what you say.
  • Listen, have chats, laugh, give them your full attention. 
  • Try to find things you can do together, breaking activities down into small steps.
  • Be reassuring.
  • Avoid scolding, contradicting or correcting.
  • Look behind the person's words for their meaning - how are they feeling?
  • Show affection in ways that are acceptable to the person.
  • Be flexible and tolerant.
  • Allow a person time to get to know you - meeting new or unfamiliar people is particularly difficult.
  • Never talk over the person - include them all that you say and do.

As with all communication, probably eight tenths of what we communicate is through body language and tone. To remember this makes understanding the words that are being said less important and both you and the person you are talking to will relax. I had a friend who was training as a doctor and whose grandmother had fairly advanced dementia; she used to sit with her grandmother learning lists of nerves and muscles out loud, but in a tone as though she was reading a story. She was able to spend pleasant half hours with her grandmother when they would laugh alot and take pleasure in each other's company and get her revision done. Her grandmother was helping her and at some level she seemed to know this. It is important that people know they are valued; a sense of not being valued by anyone may make dementia a lonely place to inhabit.

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