Whether it is yourself or a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia, it can be a difficult subject to talk about. Feelings of shame, confusion and anxiety are common – and while it may seem easier to ignore the problem, talking about it can reduce stress and help you feel less alone. This is why the Alzheimer’s Society has dedicated Dementia Awareness Week 2014 to opening up and communicating.
The importance of communication
Communication is something all humans have an innate need for, regardless of age or situation. This is why one of the most devastating symptoms of dementia includes a difficulty with language. In some cases what may be perceived as unusual or even aggressive behaviour from someone with dementia, may in fact stem from an inability to communicate.
Not being able to express thoughts and feelings can be incredibly frustrating for both the person living with dementia and those close to them – there are however ways to ease the tension. Essex-based counsellor Louise Beaumont has the following tips for communicating with someone with dementia:
- Try not to ask too many questions that require the person to remember the recent past. A simple “what did you have for breakfast?” question, can raise anxiety as the person becomes fearful at not remembering.
- Where possible stay in the moment, talk about what is right there, something you and they can see, feel or hear.
- Avoid contradicting or giving in to the urge to ‘put them right’ when you know something they say is not correct. Find a way (if it is really important to do so) of offering the ‘right’ version, e.g. “oh, I thought it was the blue tablet, let me just check for my own peace of mind”.
- If they had a passion in life, be it family, reading, gardening, music, walking, stamp collecting – whatever, try and weave something about that subject into your contact time with them. If they pick up on the subject gently let them lead you into their memory – if they don’t, try again later or another time.
Why talk therapy could help
One of the main aims of this year’s Dementia Awareness Week is to encourage those affected by dementia to talk about the difficulties they are facing. For some, talking therapies like counselling offer a sense of release and support.
As a counsellor working with friends and relatives of those with dementia as well as those recently diagnosed, Louise knows better than most how talking therapies can help,
“Having a safe place where we can feel that we are taken seriously, our needs are being met, that someone cares about us whilst we care for our loved one, is a relief and I believe essential to the demanding task of adjustment to our changing situation and feelings.
“Being able to air our frustrations where no one can be hurt or dismayed by the rawness of our emotion is like letting steam out of a pressure cooker.”
Louise goes on to explain that talking to a therapist can help us gain insight and understanding when it comes to our own processes and responses, giving us the space to think about how we communicate with the changing person we love rather than responding in a knee-jerk manner.
To find out more about talk therapy for dementia and to find a counsellor near you, please visit the dementia page on Counselling Directory.
For further information, quotes or interviews, please contact Katherine Nicholls:
Tel: 01276 301239