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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Speech Pathology Week includes those living with dementia

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The theme of this year’s Speech Pathology Week (August 22-27) is ‘communication is everyone’s right’, and this, of course, extends to members of the community living with dementia.

“People who can’t communicate, who can’t understand information, or who can’t structure coherent arguments, are ultimately at risk of being overlooked, and not having their rights respected,” president of Speech Pathology Australia, Tim Kittel, said.

But experiencing aphasia, loss of the ability to produce and understand verbal communication, does not, in turn, preclude those living with dementia from enjoying meaningful moments of connection with their primary carers and family members.

Maree McCabe AM, chief executive officer of Dementia Australia, told Aged Care News that it is important to always use a calm and kind approach when communicating with people living with dementia.

“People retain their feelings and emotions even though they may not understand what is being said, so it is important to always maintain their dignity and self-esteem,” she said.

“Be flexible and always allow plenty of time for a response.”

She added that touch, where appropriate, can be effective in maintaining the person with dementia’s attention and, when words fail, one should never underestimate the power of body-language.

“Remember that a warm smile (even when we are wearing masks) and shared laughter can often communicate more than words can,”  McCabe said.

Dementia Australia provides a variety of communication skills workshops to empower health providers, as well as family carers to best support those living with dementia.

For support and information, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

An interpreter service is available and the Helpline is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays.

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