Developing communication difficulties is a common occurrence in dementia, this can be stressful for the person with dementia and their relatives. Communication difficulties can be challenging due to symptoms such as memory loss, difficulty finding words or using inappropriate words, problems with reasoning, repetition of words and phrases and behaviour. When some people communicate they may lack coherence, lose track of the topic or be distracted. These difficulties can lead to frustration and stressed behaviour as the person struggles to make them self understood.
As communication becomes more impaired people with dementia may find it difficult to make their wishes known this is why Future Planning and in particular Power of Attorney are important considerations. At times carers may find it difficult to know what they person with dementia wants but it is always important to include them as much as possible in decisions about their daily lives and take their previous wishes into consideration if having to make decisions on their behalf.
In order to aid communication there are many simple low tech aids to help communicate with a person with dementia:
- Encourage the person with dementia to keep a diary for things such as appointments
- Put labels on doors and cupboards. Perhaps use sticky notes and whiteboards
- Place important numbers by the phone where they can be seen easily
- Put a note on the back of the door as a reminder to take keys
- Label family photographs, both on display and in albums
- Pin a weekly timetable to the wall
- Mark a calendar with the date or get an electronic calendar that changes automatically
- Write reminders to lock the door at night and put the rubbish out on a certain day
- Use Talking Mats to discuss issues around daily living
Adapted from Simple Ways to Help Someone Live with Dementia, Alzheimer Society 2010
Computers, cameras, smartphones, tablets and apps are part of our lives and so it is important that people with dementia engage with them. Using these aids in a variety of ways with people with dementia can be extremely rewarding and benefit individuals, family members and carers. It can bring enjoyment, improve cognitive stimulation and can be good for relationships between younger and older people.
Ideas for Using High Tech Aids
- Recording people’s lives – digital memory or life story books; diary
- Making things – calendars; photo albums; reminders
- Playing internet games, sensory apps , watching films, drawing
- Music – YouTube or Playlist for Life
- Helping with conversations – word finding
- Communicating with family and friends (email, Skype, discussion forums, etc.)
- Helping with planning – personal planning, care plans, using services
- Physical activities using Wii, X box Kinect
A list of apps for download or purchase – Memory Apps for Dementia, Alive 2013