Sometimes, after a diagnosis of dementia, communicating can become a little more difficult. Some people revert to a language they spoke in their earlier years.
Poor memory or other thinking skills can interrupt your ability to communicate with others. This can be really upsetting for you, and for the people around you.
If this is the case for you, there are things that can help.
If you’re having trouble hearing, an audiologist may be able to organise hearing aids or some other hearing device.
If you’re having trouble writing, an occupational therapist might be able to help.
If you’re not speaking as well as you once did, or having trouble finding the right word, a speech pathologist can help. They can work with you and with your carers, family and friends to make it easier for you to communicate.
They can also work with you to develop a life book, which is also called a memory book or a chat book. This holds the stories, the photos and the memories
that have made you who you are.
And if English is not your first language, you might want to take a worker from your culture, an interpreter or a family member with you to visit the audiologist, occupational therapist or speech pathologist.
For Cai, dementia affects her ability to speak. At times it is distressing, both to her and to her husband Huynh, who cared for Cai while she was living at home. Cai saw a speech pathologist, who used different approaches at different times to support Cai to communicate. At one time, Cai was helped by a word relearning program that she used each day at home on her laptop. Cai also enjoys participating in a choir for people who have trouble communicating. She enjoys the social contact and loves music, so she really gets involved in the singing. Now a memory book has helped Cai settle into new accommodation.
‘It has a dozen pages,’ says Huynh. ‘On the left is a photo and on the right is some text. It is very valuable – it helps her talk about who she is, what her life was like before, and who and what is important to her.’
The National Dementia Helpline is an Australian Government funded initiative.