Tips for having meaningful conversations

Dementia advice

Avoid talking across people which can happen at larger family gatherings or when several people visit at once

Try really hard to involve those living with dementia in all conversations, encouraging them to make the critical decisions such as where you should all sit, what you should drink or eat, or what you should do together.

Be aware that you may have to listen to the same stories, questions or concerns over and over again

As tough as it can be to accept, this is how dementia affects the brain. For your part, always react as though you are hearing the subject for the first time. You might find that your familiarity with the topic makes it easier to think of helpful responses in advance.

Express one idea at a time

Bombarding someone living with dementia with several questions at once, or reeling off a list of all the things you have done since your last visit, is just too much for a mind affected with dementia to absorb. Tell stories in bite-sized pieces and the conversation will be much more rewarding all round.

Give the person living with dementia plenty of time to get their message across and judge from their reactions if they would like you to help them make their point

If your loved one seems comfortable talking, then let them carry on for as long as they want but, if they seem distressed, it might be a good idea to lend a hand.

If their words make no sense, try to look for a meaning behind them

For example, if they are talking about their father a lot at the visit, talk about their childhood and the memories they can draw on at that time.

Keep questions simple and straightforward

For example, rather than saying “what would you like for breakfast?” ask “would you prefer some toast or some porridge this morning?”. Even better, hold the options up too as this will make choosing even easier.

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