We are not born knowing how to communicate with a person with dementia - but we can learn. Working on the communication and connection with your loved one will improve the quality of your relationship with them. Connecting with others is at the core of being human and shouldn't change when a person has dementia.
Your loved one longs for a connection and companionship, although they may be a different person to you now. You can encourage that close connection by using these activities to cultivate the connection in both of your lives.
1. Play Music or a Musical
Studies have shown that using the arts can circumnavigate certain effects of dementia and enhance an emotional connection. It can even create new pathways in the brain with which to access memories. Play music or musicals that will make them happy. Don't hesitate to even sing along even if it feels silly.
2. View Photo Albums
Photos from their childhood or even their young adult life would be excellent to share together. Remind your loved one of the time captured in the images. Long-term memories tend to survive longer than short ones. Don't be persistent in having them share details of the pictures, but just enjoy looking through them together. Looking through magazines that date back to their time period are also a good option.
3. Get Some Fresh Air
On a day when the weather cooperates, go out and get some fresh air and enjoy a walk through nature. Incorporate the five senses in your walk in order to stimulate conversation. Smell the flowers, listen to the birds sing, feel the wind and sunshine on your skin. Inquire what their favorite activities were during their youth.
4. Connect and Visit with Animals
Ask them questions about animals, maybe about an old pet or what it was like growing up on the farm. If you are looking to help connect a grandchild with a grandparent with dementia, this is a great opportunity. Many pet stores have a safe environment in which your loved one can interact with puppies and other animals. You could even take an outing to a family farm or local petting zoo.
5. Glance Through Cookbooks
There is a strong possibility your loved one spent some time learning to cook. Go through a family cookbook together and discuss the recipes. Go the extra mile and cook with the family recipe and share the end result with your loved one.
6. Watch TV Shows and Movies
Many streaming subscription services have a great repertoire of classic movies and television shows. Sometimes they may not say much while watching these, but sharing the time together to watch something they may have enjoyed in the past will help them make connections.
7. Sing Songs
Music classes and sing-a-longs were quite common in schools back in the day. You would be surprised what songs your loved one may remember from their school days. If they attended church, sing hymns with them. If you find yourself with them during a particular holiday, sing a holiday carol or fitting song for the holiday.