"But I didn’t order that!!!"
Travelling the somewhat (if there is such a thing) “non-touristy” parts of France has shed light on a very common problem for many people living with dementia - communication!
Unfortunately I cannot speak French and whilst luckily for me there are many English speaking French people, I am still experiencing the frustration I’m sure many people with dementia do when trying to communicate what they want and need. I also cannot read French, and when you’re at a French restaurant with a French menu and French speaking waiter, you’re bound to end up with something very “interesting” on your plate that you swear you never ordered!
Whilst my experience far comes close to what people with dementia experience, I like to think it has helped me to try and put my feet in the shoes of those with dementia experiencing language difficulties. We take spoken language for granted until we are put in a position where we can no longer use it effectively. For example, being in a foreign county where you cannot speak the language!!
MANY people with dementia can experience language difficulties; the part of their brain that recognises, interprets and expresses language may be affected. This can be both written and verbal language. What happens when you can’t understand what people are saying to you or express what you need? Generally frustration! The emotional center of the brain takes over. For people with dementia, this frustration can often express itself in anger, physical and verbal aggression, wandering, depression and anxiety/panic.
What have I noticed? The power of body language! I’m talking things like eye contact, body positioning and hand gestures (lots of pointing at baguettes at the patisserie!). When we are communicating with people with dementia with language barriers we need to put body language on a pedestal; it is so important! Some simple things to consider when communication with people with language difficulties include:
Brooke George, Occupational Therapist