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This week is Dementia Action Week, and Alzheimer’s Society are encouraging people to take action by starting a conversation with someone living with dementia. Often, people are uncertain on how to talk to people living with dementia, due to not wanting to say the wrong thing, but with two-thirds of individuals living with dementia feeling lonely and isolated, it’s important to reach out to those who need help.
Something as simple as saying hello or engaging in small talk with someone living with dementia can really help to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially in older generations. If you can, pop round to see someone you know who has dementia; being in their own familiar environment with help them to feel more relaxed when you’re chatting.
If the individual’s dementia has deteriorated to the point where a conversation is no longer possible, simply visiting and sitting with them can help to bring feelings of happiness and comfort. Even if your friend or relative doesn’t remember who you are, the emotional memory of your visit can improve their general mood.
The language you use when talking to an individual with dementia is important; anything impatient, stressful or generally negative can cause feelings of frustration, especially if the person struggles to communicate their thoughts. Additionally, asking questions can cause confusion, particularly if it’s referencing something in their recent past. While your friend or relative may be able to remember events from their childhood, people with dementia can often find it difficult to recall things like what they did that morning.
It’s important to remember to be patient when having a conversation with someone who has dementia; asking invasive questions or becoming impatient when they don’t reply instantly only causes frustration and upset. If your loved one makes mistakes, such as thinking a deceased relative is still alive, don’t correct them and instead just gently change the subject. Topics such as things in the here and now - like the weather - are ideal, as they don’t prompt confusion.
For more information on Dementia Action Week, you can visit the Alzheimer’s Society website here.