Set a positive mood for interaction. Attitude and body language communicate feelings and thoughts more strongly than your words do. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection.

 

Getting attention. Limit distractions and noise—turn off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings. Address the person by their name, identify yourself by name and use nonverbal cues and touch to maintain focus.

 

Ask simple, answerable questions. Ask one question at a time; those with yes or no answers work best. Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices. For example, ask, “Would you like to wear your flowered dress or your blue dress?”. Displaying the choices helps clarify your question and can guide a response.

 

Break down activities into a series of steps. This makes many tasks much more manageable. You can encourage with gentle reminders. Use visual cues, mimic the directions such as where to place a crayon on paper or a fork on a plate.

 

When the going gets tough, distract and redirect. When managing agitated behavior try changing the subject or the environment. For example, you might say, “I see you’re feeling sad—I’m sorry you’re upset. Let’s go get something to eat.”

 

Respond with affection and reassurance. People with dementia often feel confused, anxious, and unsure of themselves. Further, they often get reality confused and may recall things that never really occurred. Avoid trying to convince them they are wrong.

 

Focus. Stay focused on the feelings that are demonstrated (which are real) and respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort, support, and reassurance. Sometimes holding hands, touching, hugging, and praise will get the person to respond when all else fails.

 

Remember the good old days. Remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. Many people with dementia may not remember what happened 45 minutes ago, but they can clearly recall their lives 45 years earlier. Therefore, avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, such as asking the person what they had for lunch. Instead, try asking general questions about the person’s distant past—this information is more likely to be retained.

 

Maintain your sense of humor.

Use humor whenever possible, though not at the person's expense. People with dementia tend to retain their social skills and often love to laugh!