Caregivers need to communicate differently with those with dementia at different stages of the disease. As the disease progresses, more skill is required to convey messages and establish mutual understanding. It is important to remain flexible and aware of how effective different techniques are in different situations. As dementia progresses from early to late stages, communication strategies, goals, and expectations need to change.
In the early stages, the goals of communication are to:
- Maintain as near to normal communication and interactions as possible.
- Keep the person socially engaged.
In some ways, these are relatively easy goals to achieve, because the main communication problem involves word finding.
In the middle stages, the goals of communication are to:
- Maintain a shared pattern of communication through turn-taking and other social forms.
- Maintain a two-way flow of communication.
In the late stages, the goal of communication is to maintain communication by emphasizing non-verbal techniques.
Research on the best ways to communicate with care recipients who have dementia have identified four strategies that are effective:
- Show respect
- Decrease environmental stress
- Empathy and validation
- Focused communication
These four strategies build on each other and are best used in combination.
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