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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Looking for inspiration to start up a conversation with someone living with dementia? Old photographs and memorabilia from their past are simple ways to spark a memory that can lead to hours of conversation.
But communication isn’t all about speaking. Spending time walking in the garden together or listening to their favourite music can be beneficial too. One of the benefits of living in a care home for someone with dementia is that our care teams are trained to get to know your loved one on an individual level so they can provide person-centred care based around your loved one’s likes and dislikes.
Singing really helps. I have worked with people who were completely confused and really struggled to make themselves understood. In many of these cases, when we encouraged them to sing, they could get their words out. We could tell if they were distressed, we could find out why and then we could do something about it.Care UK colleague
There are endless directions in which your conversation can go. Ask straightforward questions about their past, but don’t be afraid to just be there, spending time together doing a simple project that will give them a sense of purpose. Find out more in our free guide, Listen, talk, connect.
There are several ways to spark a conversation with someone who is living with dementia. Use a picture from when they were younger, find an old TV advert on YouTube or use a history book about the area where they lived as a jumping off point to ask questions about their past. Discover more ideas in our free guide, Listen, talk, connect.
Use a ‘memory box’ to prompt conversations about your loved one’s past. You can fill it with old match programmes or newspaper articles, photographs of a place where they used to live or products with labels from yesteryear. Explore more conversation starters for people with dementia in our free guide, Listen, talk, connect.
Using a ‘memory box’ or trinkets from the person’s past can reignite lost memories. Try asking the person simple questions about their life, family, a past career, or memorable holidays.
You can find ideas for making everyday tasks meaningful for your loved one through Activity Based Care in our guide, As easy as ABC, which is packed with tips for helping an older loved one to stay active and engaged.