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How to Talk to Someone with Dementia on the Phone

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Maintaining connections with our loved ones is vital, regardless of the circumstances. It can be especially important when it comes to those living with dementia. But let’s face it, connecting over the phone can be challenging. Some tips for talking to someone with dementia on the phone include:

  • Choose an appropriate time and place
  • Use simple language and avoid complex sentences
  • Show empathy and respect
  • Use visual aids or technology
  • Encourage reminiscing and validate your loved one’s feelings

Your loved one’s caregivers may be able to help facilitate a good conversation. For example, they may be able to help create a calm, quiet environment for your loved one, encouraging focus and attention.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a group of conditions that are progressive and chronic. It’s a relatively common condition among older adults, and it can be challenging for those with it and their loved ones. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. But there are several other types of dementia, including:

  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease dementia
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Mixed dementia

Causes of Dementia

A variety of factors can cause dementia, including age, genetics, lifestyle factors, and medical conditions. Our brain cells shrink and die as we age, which can lead to memory loss and cognitive dysfunction. Genetics also play a role in dementia—individuals with a family history of the condition are at a higher risk of developing it. Lifestyle factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, and poor diet can also increase the risk.

Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia symptoms can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. Common dementia symptoms include memory loss, difficulty with language and communication, changes in mood or behavior, and difficulty with activities of daily living. These symptoms can be mild at first but gradually worsen over time.

As dementia progresses, patients may experience hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. They may also have difficulty recognizing family and friends and often become increasingly isolated.

How to Talk to Someone with Dementia on the Phone

Dementia affects a person’s cognitive functions. This includes memory, attention, and language, meaning that understanding complex sentences, following conversations, or even recognizing familiar voices can become difficult. These challenges can be amplified over the phone without visual cues or body language to aid understanding. Some tips for a great conversation with an older adult with dementia over the phone include:

Choosing the Right Time & Environment

The first step in having a meaningful conversation with someone with dementia is to choose the right time and environment. Pick a time when the person is well-rested, alert, and in a calming and familiar environment. Avoid calling during mealtimes or other busy hours when they might feel overwhelmed or distracted. Reduce background noise and turn off the TV or radio to minimize distractions and increase their focus.

Use Simple Language & Avoid Complex Topics

People with dementia can have difficulty understanding complex topics or following long conversations. Therefore, using simple language, short sentences, and clear instructions is important. Speak slowly, distinctly, calmly, and reassuringly. Avoid asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices, as this can cause confusion or anxiety. Keep the conversation light and positive, and focus on topics the person enjoys or remembers.

Show Empathy & Respect

Even if the person with dementia can’t remember who you are, it’s crucial to show empathy and respect. Use their name and speak in a friendly and polite tone of voice. Listen patiently, and don’t rush the conversation. The person with dementia may feel frustrated or anxious, so it helps to validate their feelings and provide reassurance that you’re there for them.

Use Visual Aids or Technology

Visual aids or technology can help facilitate communication and engagement for some people with dementia. You can send photos, videos, or postcards that they can look at or hold while you talk on the phone. You can also use video conferencing apps or devices like FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom to see each other and have a more interactive conversation. But be aware that some people with dementia may find technology confusing or overwhelming, so it’s important to introduce it gradually and provide support and guidance.

Encourage Reminiscing & Validate Feelings

One way to connect with someone with dementia is to encourage reminiscing. Reminiscing involves recalling positive memories or experiences from the past, such as a favorite vacation, a family gathering, or a meaningful activity.

Validation involves acknowledging and accepting the person’s feelings and perspectives without judgment or correction. To encourage reminiscing and validation, you can use prompts like:

  • “Tell me more about that.”
  • “What did you like about that?”
  • “That sounds like it was important to you.”

Maintain a Good Relationship with Your Loved One

Some keys to a successful phone conversation with someone living with dementia are patience, empathy, and a little bit of planning. It’s about making your loved one feel valued, heard, and loved. There could be hiccups along the way, but remember, every conversation is a chance to strengthen and maintain a good relationship with your aging parent or relative.

Contact our team today at Fox Trail Memory Care in New Jersey. Our team is happy to answer your questions about how our compassionate caregivers here can help you maintain a great relationship with your loved one.

Written by adminfoxtrail

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