Talking to loved ones with dementia

A new free resource from Bupa Care gives helpful advice and practical suggestions on how to engage and communicate with a loved one who has dementia.


The cover of the free resource, the Talking Toolkit  from Bupa

 “Maintaining meaningful communication is one of the most important ways people can support those with dementia.”  Professor Graham Stokes

Avoiding open ended questions, not contradicting the person and knowing when to walk away are among the words of advice from a new resource launched by Bupa yesterday, aimed at helping people communicate better with a loved one with dementia.

The Talking Toolkit, based on a similar resource developed in the UK last year, was launched on Monday this week, to mark the conclusion of Dementia Awareness Week and World Alzheimer’s Day on Sunday.

Dealing with all stages of dementia, the Talking Toolkit is designed as a practical guide to help relatives and friends of people living with dementia maintain meaningful communication and connections with their loved ones as the condition progresses.

Professor Graham Stokes, Director of Dementia Care for Bupa Care globally, believes there is a strong connection between fear of communication with the person with dementia and stigma, which he says must be tackled.

“People are fearful of trying to communicate with those living with dementia as they don’t know what to say, or how to respond to what might be perceived as unusual behaviour,” Professor Stokes said.

“Communicating with someone with dementia can present challenges, especially as the condition develops, but maintaining meaningful communication is one of the most important ways people can support those with dementia.

He said the Toolkit identifies some specific ways to help and encourage people to do this.

CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glenn Rees, said Bupa’s Toolkit is full of practical and positive tips on communication that will help people to make meaningful connections with those living with dementia.

“Dementia can change people’s ability to remember, to comprehend new information and to interact with others. But it doesn’t make these things impossible, and with the right approach, friends and family can maintain a very close and mutually rewarding relationship with their loved one with dementia for as long as possible,” Mr Rees said.

The Talking Toolkit advice includes:

•Try not to ask open questions, as this can be confusing for someone with dementia. All questions should have a direct ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, or lead them to the answer. For example, instead of asking “what would you like for lunch”, ask “Would you like a cheese sandwich?”

•Where possible, keep statements brief. Remember that the person may lose the thread of the conversation if you talk for too long and this can lead to irritation and frustration for both you and the person with dementia.

•Try not to contradict the person with dementia as this could increase their anxiety. Remember that at that moment, what they are saying is what they know to be true.

•If the person with dementia is no longer able to communicate with you by talking, your physical presence may be enough to reassure them or put them at ease.

For copies of the Talking Toolkit

The Talking Toolkit is a free resource available to anyone, either to download from the Bupa website or as a printed publication.

Click on this link to download a PDF of the Talking Toolkit.

Click on the link here to go to Bupa Care’s ‘contact us’ page to request a printed copy of the Talking Toolkit.

For more information, see the Bupa Care website.


Tags: alzheimers-australia, bupa-care-services, graham-stokes, talking-toolkit,

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