Conversation starters: What can help facilitate communication between a senior with dementia and her adult children?

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What can help facilitate communication between a senior with dementia and her adult children?

Question

Can you offer suggestions on conversation topics for a senior with early stages dementia and her adult children? Mostly she has a playlist of things from the past she will talk about. Trying to find topic ideas so maybe there is more communicating back and forth.

Our answer

It is so valuable for seniors to be able to connect socially with their loved ones. However, dementia can make conversation difficult and even frustrating. Thankfully, there are plenty of innovative solutions to address this common challenge. There are cards and games that help to guide conversations including:

  • TableTopics by Ultra PRO International (available from amazon.ca) is a set of 135 cards featuring conversation starters for all ages. This product costs about $30 (Cdn).
  • Shake Loose a Memory Game by Peggy Shelley and Joan Wheeler (available from alzstore.ca) is a card game to prompt conversation. The goal of the game is to collect as many cards as possible, but each card has a question to prompt memories. This product costs about $50 (Cdn). The Alzstore US site offers other versions of this game for about $22 (U.S.) plus a shipping fee.
  • Call-to-Mind Conversation Game by University College London (available from alzstore.ca) is a board game-style conversation guide. It works for intergenerational play, group settings and getting to know people. This product costs about $100 (Cdn).

There are mobile applications for presenting discussions topics or prompting reminiscence. You may wish to explore some of the applications listed below:

  • AmuseIT is a simple visual quiz app for iOS and Android devices designed to spark conversation for people with dementia and their caregivers. The app features over 1000 questions with engaging images and customization options. This app costs about $4 (Cdn).
  • My House of Memories: Dementia & Alzheimer's App by National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside is a free mobile application for iOS and Android devices for guided reminiscence. The app features a museum of items from the 1920s to the 1980s. These items are comprised of photos, accompanied by descriptions, music and sound. The user can curate their own museum and use the content to prompt conversation and memories.
  • InspireD Dementia Reminiscence by the University of Ulster is a free and simple app for iOS and Android devices. The app stores and organizes photos, music, and videos to help users revisit memories and spark conversations. Content can be curated for the individual and the app is simple for user’s with dementia to access it independently.

There are even books and articles to assist caregivers in their communication, such as:

Also consider that as dementia progresses the individual may benefit from different strategies.

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