Clients practise their foreign language skills at Safe Haven

The sound of foreign languages being spoken at Safe Haven is now a familiar one as there are a number of clients who speak more than one language, including Russian, French and German.

To keep these skills active, we have been lucky enough to recruit two volunteers who also speak various languages. In our experience, some people who have dementia will revert back to either their mother tongue, or to another language they have often spoken in the past. They may have lived and worked in different countries when they were younger, or grew up in a bi-lingual household.

Often, a person with dementia will focus on a certain period in their life that was particularly happy, or a time of great significance to them. It’s not always necessarily a happy time; it can often be a very sad part of their life, like during war time for example.

Obviously, it is not a good idea to encourage people with dementia to think about sad, painful and difficult times, as this will bring on undue stress and upset. But if you are able to help them to reconnect to the periods in their life when they felt at their most confident, contented and happy, the use of another language can help them to remember the good times when speaking in a different language to friends, family or colleagues.

Research has also shown that speaking another language helps delay the effects of dementia. It is claimed that people who were bilingual did not show the signs of three types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, for more than four years longer than those who spoke only one language.

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