In their study of dementia care for hospitalized patients, Weitzel et al. (2011) discuss the importance of using the right approach that answers to the needs of dementia patients. They write, “Patients with dementia are much more vulnerable to the hazards imposed by the acute care environment. They are suddenly plunged into an unfamiliar environment with strange surroundings, noises, equipment, and people” (Weitzel et al., 2011, p. 220), which is why it is hard for them to adjust to the new surroundings.
To make the experience as smooth as possible, the caregivers must use suitable communication techniques when addressing the patients with dementia, which would take into consideration the particular aspects of their behavior and the thought processes behind them. Among such techniques are the direct approach, use of the full name, respect for personal space, obtaining permission and providing positive feedback, asking simple questions, and using reminiscence.
To me, the most promising technique is the direct personal approach, which stresses the need to approach the patient directly in a warm manner, while maintaining eye contact and a pleasant tone (Weitzel et al., 2011, p. 222). This approach provides the necessary impression of personal involvement, which is especially valuable for patients suffering from dementia. As Weitzel et al. (2011) explain, the worst approach is neutral communication, which makes the patients feel neglected and unimportant (p. 221). Therefore, a direct personal approach would be useful as it would make the patient feel like he or she is being cared for and that his or her needs are recognized, which would provide the necessary comfort in the unfamiliar environment.
Weitzel, T., Robinson, S., Mercer, S., Berry, T., Barnes, M., Plunkett, D., … Kirkbride, G. (2011). Pilot testing an educational intervention to improve communication with patients with dementia. Journal for Nurses in Staff Development, 27(5): 220-226.