Using Positive Language to Support Seniors with Dementia

Using Positive Language to Support Seniors with Dementia

Using positive language is essential in supporting seniors with dementia. The words you choose can significantly impact their self-esteem, mood, and overall well-being. Adopting respectful and empathetic language can foster better communication and strengthen your relationship with your family members. Home Instead is here to guide you through the use of positive language in dementia care.

Examples of Preferred Terms and Phrases

Person-First Language:

Always put the person before their condition. This emphasizes their humanity and individuality.

Example: Instead of saying “demented person,” say “person living with dementia.”

Descriptive and Specific Language:

Avoid vague or negative terms. Be specific and descriptive about behaviours and needs.

Example: Replace “aggressive behaviour” with “responsive behaviour” or describe it as “John feels anxious in crowded places.”

Respectful Titles:

Use respectful titles and names that the individual prefers. Avoid infantilizing terms.

Example: Use “Mr. Smith” or “John” based on their preference instead of pet names like “sweetie” or “dear.”

Empowering Phrases:

Focus on what your family members can do rather than what they cannot.

Example: Instead of saying, “John can’t dress himself,” say, “John needs assistance with dressing.”

Inclusive Language:

Use language that promotes inclusion and participation in activities.

Example: Instead of saying, “Let’s do this for John,” say, “Let’s do this together, John.”

How Positive Language Enhances Communication and Relationships

Building Trust:

Positive language fosters a sense of trust and respect. When you speak to your family members with kindness and empathy, they are more likely to feel secure and valued.

Example: Use reassuring phrases like “I am here for you” or “We will get through this together.”

Reducing Stigma:

Negative language can contribute to the stigma surrounding dementia. Using positive, person-centred language you help reduce this stigma and promote a more understanding and accepting environment.

Example: Replace terms like “victim” or “sufferer” with “person living with dementia.”

Improving Mood and Behavior:

Positive language can have a calming effect and improve mood. When your relative feels respected and understood, they are less likely to exhibit distressing behaviours.

Example: Use gentle tones and positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviours.

Encouraging Engagement:

Inclusive and empowering language encourages your family members to participate in activities and engage with others. This can enhance their cognitive and emotional well-being.

Example: Invite participation with phrases like “Would you like to join us for a walk?” or “Let’s try this puzzle together.”

Promoting Self-Esteem:

Language highlighting strengths and abilities can boost a loved one’s self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.

Example: Praise efforts and achievements with statements like “You did a great job with that!” or “I’m proud of you for trying.”

Practical Tips for Using Positive Language

1. Be Mindful of Tone and Body Language: Your tone and body language can convey as much meaning as your words. Speak calmly and maintain a supportive demeanour.

      Example: Smile and use gentle hand gestures to show warmth and understanding.

      2. Avoid Negative Labels: Avoid labels that reduce individuals to their condition or behaviours. Focus on their personhood.

        Example: Instead of saying, “John is a wanderer,” say, “John sometimes loses his way.”

        3. Listen Actively: Show that you are listening by nodding, maintaining eye contact, and repeating what your family member says.

          Example: If they say, “I’m feeling lost,” respond with, “I understand you’re feeling lost. Let’s sit together for a moment.”

          How Home Instead Can Help

          Home Instead is dedicated to promoting positive language and person-centred care for seniors with dementia. Our services include:

          • Personalized Care Plans: Develop care plans emphasizing respectful and positive communication tailored to your family member’s needs.
          • Professional Training: Our caregivers are trained in using positive language and person-centred care techniques.
          • Companionship Services: Providing supportive companionship that enhances communication and builds strong relationships.
          • Resource Access: Connecting you with educational resources and community support to help you adopt positive language practices.

          Integrating positive language into your daily interactions can significantly improve the quality of life for your family member with dementia. Home Instead is here to support you every step of the way.

          Works Cited

          Alzheimer Society of Canada. Person-Centred Language Guidelines. Alzheimer Society of Canada, 2017.