- Speak in words and phrases that they used prior to their dementia. For example, when my mother-in-law was displeased with something she used to express her disdain by using the adjective ridiculous. So now when she refuses to let me put her dentures in her mouth, I quietly tell her that if she goes all day with no teeth she will look ridiculous. More often than not, this does the trick.
- Don’t ever assume that they have correctly interpreted what you are trying to tell them. If they are able, retest their understanding by asking them to repeat information back to you. Remember that you are responsible for both sides of the communication equation.
- Schedule video phone calls with family and friends who live far away. This is not only helpful for the patient, but it can also be a relief to those who do not have the opportunity to visit frequently.
- Maintain proper hydration levels. Hydration is a key factor facilitating cognitive clarity and awareness. When my mother-in-law is dehydrated, she becomes confused, anxious, and defiantly non-communicative.
- Monitor your loved one closely for possible infections. Because their systems are so sensitive, even a small infection can have an enormous impact on their daily life. Take their temperature regularly and if they begin to show signs of a fever, contact their physician immediately. My mother-in-law is particularly vulnerable to infections and can display drastic behavioral changes with even the slightest rise in her temperature. Sudden changes in your loved one’s demeanor can signal an infection.