Not knowing how to keep a conversation moving when your loved one has dementia can really put a strain on the relationship. Here are four tips focused on helping you build meaningful conversations.
Not knowing how to keep a conversation moving can really harm a relationship with your loved one. But if you know how to keep those words flowing, a meaningful conversation can help you spot the possible sparks of clarity, engage in activities that are fun and still keep that connection going even your loved one is battling with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Building meaningful conversations was an important part of my journey when I was caregiving for my mum. One of the biggest problems I also saw was that when my friends or relatives dropped by to visit my mum, they didn’t know how to talk to her. They would try, but the conversations would always fall flat and end with an awkward silence. I understood how tough it was because that happened to me all the time when I tried chatting with my mum. Over the years, and after countless disengaged chats, I have pinned having a good conversation with my mum down to using a combination of these 4 methods.
I hope these methods help you in your journey with your loved one too.
Bring the light
Time spent interacting with my mum are chances for me to find the sparks of clarity that might shine through during our conversations. There’s a huge part of me that believes that she picks up and responds more to my body language than the actual conversation that is happening. I would suggest keeping your tone positive, having a great attitude and holding a warm body language. The sense of touch was extremely appreciated. It was these small gestures that mattered more than the textual content itself.
As it got down to the later stages of my mum’s illness, communicating with her got tougher. One thing that really helped in kick starting the conversation was in setting the context at the start. It was re-introducing myself to her every time I wanted to try and have a meaningful exchange with her. I tell her my name, how we are related and where we are. It helped by addressing her by her name too. There was a certain familiarity in that.
It’s important to not throw them an overly-broad topic to respond to. I tried to stay away from open-ended questions and realised after some time, that it was better to keep the questions simple and not expect my mum to choose from a multiple bunch of choices. When it involved tasks, I broke them down to the different steps and made it really simple to follow.
Cut off the distractions
My mum was always distracted by the smallest things around us during our conversations. The sound of birds chirping would snatch her attention away from our chat that I deemed pretty engaging. If having a meaningful conversation with my mum was what I aimed for, I would usually make sure that we had it in a non-stressful environment. Make sure to shut the TV, radio, or any form of background noise. It helps to be in a space that’s as quiet as possible.
Have you made conscious effort to develop meaningful conversations with your loved one? What methods do you use? Share with us below!