Communication is the key to having a happy and successful relationship. However, as our loved ones age, some may become forgetful, and the basis of our relationships may change. Communication can become difficult, and it may seem impossible to find common ground.When communicating with those with memory loss, the words and phrases once used may need to be adjusted. Some specific communication strategies that may be helpful include:
- Be specific when asking questions. For example, say “Do you want to go to the park today?” instead of “What would you like to do today?” This will cause less frustration, and will lead to better communication.
- Use simple words and short sentences. Make communication uncomplicated and easy to understand, regardless of the memory-impaired person’s education level and vocabulary. This will keep them calm and better able to focus on the communication.
- Be direct. If you want to have a conversation, say “I want to talk to you.” If you are serving dinner, say “Please come to the table for dinner.” Being direct leaves no room for confusion about what you would like the person with memory loss to do.
- Use hand gestures when applicable. Sometime even the simplest words can be misinterpreted, so using hand gestures can help make things clear. For example, when telling the person there is a phone call for him or her, mimic talking on the phone with your hand as the phone. Or, when inviting the person to the table to eat, mime eating. This helps the person visualize what you are saying, and leaves less room for confusion.
- Never argue with a person who is memory impaired. Instead, when the conversation takes a turn that will cause dissention, distract the person from what was being discussed. Change the subject, or agree with him while steering the conversation to a less upsetting topic.