Let’s talk about how individuals and their families can better communicate for those with memory impairment. This includes mild cognitive impairments to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
What is the first thing you need to do with someone who has a memory impairment?
One of the very first things that I tell people is to be supportive. If there is one thing that I would want you to do is to remove the word “remember” from your vocabulary completely. Use the word “actually” instead of “remember”. because confrontation is not supportive. You should say, “Well, actually, yesterday, we did X, Y, and Z” versus asking them to remember. This causes a lot less agitation and frustration for everyone.
What are some things to avoid with someone who has a memory impairment?
You should avoid quizzing them and calling attention to any mistakes they make. None of us like to be wrong and you shouldn’t tell someone with a memory impairment that they are wrong. Oftentimes, you can take any kind of agitation out of the mix by saying, “You’re right”. Then, you can move on and redirect them. It isn’t about us being right. It is about supporting the individual who has the memory impairment. You can correct misinformation indirectly. Again, that’s using the word actually, instead of remember. This is because they don’t remember.
You should also avoid talking about their problems in front of them. You should include them in the conversation if you need to talk about them or their situation, but don’t discuss problems in front of them if it isn’t necessary.
What things must you do with someone who has a memory impairment?
You must always state your name. I always go into a room and say, “Hi, Miss Dorothy. It’s Carmen from Encompass.” I do this every time, whether or not Miss Dorothy remembers me or doesn’t. I don’t have her getting agitated if she doesn’t remember. This is very important for caregivers because, oftentimes, they work day in and day out with these individuals. They will usually come in and say, “Knock knock, Miss Doroth, it’s me.” Who is me? Me as you, me as me, or me as them. It is better to introduce yourself to support them, so they don’t feel uncomfortable if they don’t remember you.
You should also talk to them like an adult. Even though their memory is functioning much lower than their age, you shouldn’t be condescending. Be sure you support them in your communication. Be respectful at all times. That is the best way you can support our individuals with a memory impairment.
Resources: Carmen, Speech and Language Pathologist from Encompass Health
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