1. Tips to help customers with dementia
Staff working across a wide variety of sectors already know the importance of good customer service. The following tips may help assist someone with dementia. We also have information on the physical environment, and how to deal with difficult situations. For more information you can download our booklet How to help people with dementia: A guide for customer facing staff.
Offer understanding and reassurance
Someone with dementia who is finding it difficult to process information or is feeling disorientated may not be able to answer simple questions or take in what you are saying. They may not remember what they were doing or intending to do. In the later stages, they may also make mistakes about things, for example they may think that their bag has been stolen when they have left it somewhere else.
When you are assisting a person with dementia, remember the following points.
- Firstly, allow the person to take their time.
- Try to understand how they might be feeling.
- Put the person at ease – be friendly and smile.
- Consider their feelings and respond to the emotions they are expressing.
- If they are experiencing difficulty or appear distressed, ask direct questions such as whether there is someone they would like you to call, rather than 'What would you like me to do?'
The key to helping someone is being able to communicate with them. A person with dementia may not understand what you are doing or remember what you have said. Treat them respectfully by addressing them in conversation as well as any partner orcarer they may be with. Follow the guidelines below that may help you communicate with someone who is experiencing difficulties associated with dementia.
Body language and physical contact
- Make eye contact
- Make sure that your body language and facial expressions match what you are saying.
- Never stand too close or stand over someone to communicate.
- Do not cover your mouth. The person should be able to see your face clearly.
- Speak clearly and calmly.
- Use short, simple sentences.
- Speak at a slightly slower pace.
- Avoid speaking sharply or raising your voice.
- Don't talk about people with dementia as if they are not there or talk to them as you would to a young child.
- Listen carefully to what the person is saying, and give them plenty of encouragement.
- If you haven't understood fully, tell the person what you have understood and check with them to see if you are right.
- If possible, use visual clues – write your message down if the person is able to read and use objects or pictures to help the person understand. For example, show the person photographs of meals they can choose from.
We have a publication called 'How to help people with dementia: A guide for customer-facing staff', which you can download for free or buy on our online shop.