Tips for coping with difficult conversations

Dementia advice

Try not to take any changes in behaviour personally

Your loved one can’t help the way they are behaving so you certainly can’t either.

Try not to overreact

Anger might seem really extreme to you but it’s probably just your loved one trying to make their point physically, as they can no longer express themselves easily in words. A banged table might just be a way of showing slight impatience or frustration.

Stay calm

This isn’t the time to try and convince your loved one that you are a close relative; that they are imagining things; that they are unwell. It’s time to listen to them; to look them in the eyes; to ask them closed questions to understand their concerns; to lead them to a quiet place; to hold their hands; to speak slowly and softly; to nod as they speak; to take their complaints seriously, even if they have no logic; to give them a task to do to distract them from their worries. Do whatever you can to reassure your loved one that everything is alright.

Validate their feelings

Validation techniques are something that professional carers use to cope with difficult conversations.

These are a couple of examples;

“If a lady in our care is looking for her husband, who died several years ago, we don’t tell her that he is dead. That would just reignite the grieving process. Instead, we ask her to tell us about her husband. We ask “what was his name?”, “how did you meet?”, “did you have any children?”, “where did you get married?” It can help to distract from the anxiety of feeling alone, it can help to bring back memories and it can evoke moments of lucidity.”
 Denise Findley, Home Manager of Hadrian Park in Billingham

“If your loved one wants to go home and that is not possible, ask them questions about their home - “how many bedrooms did your house have?”, “did you have a garden?”, “who were your neighbours?” They will be able to answer these questions and, in doing so, will bring back some very happy memories. Compare this to “Don’t be silly – this is your home now. You have to stay here.” One causes anger and upset, the other peace and calm.”
Katherine Foley, Home Manager of Tall Trees in Colchester

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