Share this Article
There are many ways to engage those living with cognitive impairment. Here are a few tried and true approaches to consider:
- Say hello and use the person’s name. When visiting those living with dementia, avoid “How are you?”. Try “How’s life?” It is an easier, more concrete question to answer.
- Validate them. Say for example: “I’m glad I found you” or “I’m happy to see you again”. Be yourself and be real.
- Tell them what you are doing first. Then proceed.
- Invite (versus making a request). Rather than “Would you like…” try this: “I invite you to…”. Invites imply a potential warm relationship with you and that they are needed.
- Speak slowly. But use a warm, adult voice— avoid sing-song speaking and ‘baby talk’.
- One thing at a time. For example, ask one question, then wait for a response.
- Allow expression of negative feelings. Just ‘walk alongside’, don’t fix. Validate by saying: “Thank you for sharing that”. If they need to cry, simply be present.
- Always, always include the person in your conversation. When someone speaks about you as if you were not there, it feels like you don’t matter.
- Ask questions that can be answered. Ask yes/no, either/or questions. Avoid cognitive questions (e.g. what’s your name, what day is it), avoid asking ‘why’ and saying ‘Don’t you remember me?’ Help by filling in the gaps.
- Offer a hug. Always ask first and check for comfort levels while giving the hug.