Mom has been having a harder and harder time communicating with us. She stumbles over words, knows what she wants to say and just can't think of the words she needs.
We may be at the dinner table and she wants ketchup for her hamburger, but can't remember the word ketchup. Or she read a story in the newspaper and wants to tell us about it but can't remember what the story said. However, through reading more about the TimeSlips program and alternative, more creative ways to communicate with dementia patients, Dad and I started doing something different.
When Mom is trying to tell us something and she can't find the words she needs, we ask her to either describe it or tell us a story. For the ketchup example, we usually know when she is asking for an item so we ask her describe what the item looks like or what it does. If she is trying to remember the story she read in the newspaper, we ask her to tell us a story. Interestingly in those situations, she tells us a story of something that she remembers from when she was younger but is similar in topic or some way to the current event she is trying to talk about. If we have read the paper or at least have seen the headlines, we can usually guess what she is trying to tell us by connecting her older story to something current that has similarities.
So, if you are talking to someone with dementia and they are having a hard time communicating with you, ask them to describe what they are thinking of, or tell you a story instead. It works wonders by letting you both communicate better, but it also relieves some of the embarrassment of the person with dementia. This way you focus not on what they can't remember and how awkward they sound, and more on what wisdom they wish to share with you.