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4 Tips for Improving Communication with Seniors

Older adults who are experiencing dementia or problems thinking clearly often struggle to communicate. This can be difficult for caregivers and family members.

By Clover Health

Keep in mind that cognitive impairment has different stages and affects everyone differently. Still, there are universal tips that may help you better connect with your loved one. 

1. Reduce distractions.

Turn off music, television, fans, and loud appliances. Limit the number of people in the room. 

2. Add non-verbal communication.

Support your words with visual aids and gestures. Also, remember that emotion is a key part of communication. Touching your loved one’s hand or offering a hug are important ways to connect. “There are many ways to communicate beyond words—especially as dementia gets more severe,” says Kumar Dharmarajan, MD, MBA, cardiologist, geriatrician, and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Clover Health. 

3. Speak slowly and clearly.

“Communicate in simple ways,” suggests Dr. Dharmarajan. Ask one question at a time. Allow for yes-or-no answers. Instead of, “What would you like to drink?” try, “Would you like some water?” Instead of, “What do you want to do today?” try, “Do you want to sit outside?”

4. Be patient.

Feeling frustrated is natural. But staying calm will help you communicate more effectively. “Patience is key,” explains Dr. Dharmarajan. 

You are not alone.

Online groups and virtual resources can connect you with support and guidance.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Clover Living magazine. Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to Clover Living magazine for free (if you aren’t already subscribed) here.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Kumar Dharmarajan

Published on 6/16/22

Photo credit: Getty