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Time To Talk About Dementia

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This week we are supporting Time to Talk Day and today we are focusing on Dementia. Whilst working with communities across Avon and Somerset, we regularly come into contact with people with dementia and their families.

Dementia describes different brain disorders that trigger a loss of brain function. These conditions are all usually progressive and eventually severe.

Being dementia aware is so important when you consider there are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million in the next 8 years. In 2015/16, we were contacted more than 300 times about a missing person thought to be affected by dementia.

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It is important to be prepared when communicating with someone with dementia, so here are some tips:

Before you speak

•Make sure you're in a good place to talk - quiet, with good lighting and without too many distractions (eg no radio or TV on in the background).

•Get the person's full attention before you start. •Position yourself where the person can see you as clearly as possible (eg with your face well-lit) and try to be on the same level as the person, rather than standing over them.

•Sit close to the person (although not so close you are in their personal space) and make eye contact.

•Make sure your body language is open and relaxed.

•Have enough time to spend with the person. If you feel rushed or stressed, take some time to calm down.

How to speak

•Speak slowly, clearly and calmly using short and simple sentences. Allow time between sentences for the person to process the information and respond. •Avoid speaking sharply or raising your voice.

•Don't talk about the person as if they are not there or talk to them as you would to a young child - be patient and have respect for them.

What to say

•Try to avoid asking too many questions, or complicated questions. People with dementia can become frustrated or withdrawn if they can't find the answer.

•If the person is finding it hard to understand, consider breaking down what you're saying into smaller chunks so that it is more manageable.

•Ask questions one at a time, and phrase them in a way that allows for a 'yes' or 'no' answer

•Rephrase rather than repeat, if the person doesn't understand what you're saying.

•If the person becomes tired easily, it may be better to opt for short, regular conversations. As dementia progresses, the person may become confused about what is true and not true

Listening

•Listen carefully to what the person is saying, and offer encouragement.

•If the person with dementia has difficulty finding the right word or finishing a sentence, ask them to explain it in a different way. Listen out for clues. Also pay attention to their body language. The expression on their face and the way they hold themselves can give you clear signals about how they are feeling.

•Allow the person plenty of time to respond - it may take them longer to process the information and work out their response. Don't interrupt the person as it can break the pattern of communication.

Body language and physical contact

•Non-verbal communication is very important for people with dementia, and as their condition progresses it will become one of the main ways the person communicates.

•A person with dementia will be able to read your body language. Sudden movements or a tense facial expression may cause upset or distress, and can make communication more difficult.

•Make sure that your body language and facial expression match what you are saying.

•Never stand too close to someone or stand over them to communicate - it can feel intimidating.

•Use physical contact to communicate your interest and to provide reassurance - don't underestimate the reassurance you can give by holding the person's hand or putting your arm around them, if it feels appropriate.

If you would like any further information on dementia go to:  www.alzheimers.org.uk/