Communication can be far more than just the words we say to one another. A smile, gesture, or touch can speak volumes. As dementia progresses in a senior, it might become essential to try out various methods to stay connected. If you’re not sure where you should start, try these tips for communication:
Body Positioning and Movement
Visualize a businessperson rushing down the sidewalk, shuffling papers in a folder or clutching a mobile phone firmly in one hand while making exaggerated gestures with the other hand. You can easily guess that individual is under great pressure, stressed, and rushed.
Now imagine someone swaying slowly to and from while holding an infant in their arms. The feelings communicated are of peace, calm, and comfort.
Keep in mind your own body language during your interactions with a loved one with dementia, being careful not to show impatience, frustration, or anger. Slower, calm movements, with a comforting facial expression, will communicate to the person with dementia that everything is okay.
Eye contact lets other people see that you are paying attention to them, and that whatever they have to communicate with you is important. For a person with dementia, this should include approaching the individual from the front so as not to surprise him or her, and keeping your face at their eye level. Try to avoid getting too close, which can be intimidating, but rather respect their personal space.
Holding or patting the senior’s hand, hugging them, shaking hands, or offering a gentle back rub are wonderful ways to show love or support, but be sure these types of physical affection are welcomed. A senior with dementia who is not at ease with being touched may become distressed and aggravated, or may feel as though they are condescending actions. Watch for any negative responses and quickly refrain from any further physical touch if noted.
Whether or not the senior can still understand the words you are saying, the tone of voice you use can frequently still be interpreted. Speak in a comforting tone at a volume that is neither too loud nor too soft. The individual might also like hearing you sing familiar tunes, or even just humming. Again, take note of cues from the senior to ensure your voice isn’t provoking discomfort.
At Live Free Home Health Care, a provider of home care and respite care in Belmont, NH and the surrounding areas, our caregiving team is specially trained in creative approaches to communicating and interacting with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease as well as other types of dementia.
We are always here to provide additional tips and resources, as well as the in-home respite care that provides you the chance to step away for a break whenever you need one. Caring for yourself is paramount to taking the best care of a senior you love with dementia, and with Live Free Home Health Care on your side, both you and the senior you love will benefit.