When someone has dementia, changes the brain causes cognitive decline and impacts how they listen, comprehend and communicate. This can be such an emotional transition for family Caregivers, because you feel like you’re losing your ability to connect with your loved one like you have in the past.
Integrating some of these communication techniques can make caregiving less stressful and improve the relationship you have with your loved one.
1. Relaxed body language and facial expressions. Smile!
At times when they are confused by your words or meaning, they’ll pick up on non-verbal communication like body language. If you are coming across frustrated or mad, they will focus on that, not what you’re actually saying. Uncrossing your arms and smiling makes the world of difference!
2. Eye Contact.
This helps hold their attention during the interaction to avoid distractions.
3. Hand motions and props to SHOW what you mean.
Non-verbal gestures and cues can help your loved one understand your message if they are having a hard time with word association. If you are asking them if they want a glass of water, at the same time, use your hand to make a drinking gesture to help them along in the conversation.
4. One topic or choice at a time. Yes or No. This or that.
Too many options will lead to confusion, so simplicity is key! Yes or No questions are best, or just 1 choice…”Do you want to watch the news or the baseball game?” Not, “What do you want to watch?”
5. Physical contact.
Physical touch brings reassurance, feelings of affection and security to your loved one. A simple embrace or a hand on their back or arm while speaking makes a big impact and will put them at ease.
6. Slow, calm, patient tone.
Cognitive decline slows the ability to process information. When speaking, try to speak a bit slower and keep a tone that is calm and even…yes, we know this is easier said than done! Sometimes taking a few breathes before engaging or re-attempting the question helps.
7. Short, simple sentences.
We don’t realize that our typical verbal communication is more like one big run on sentence! When that happens, it’s difficult for our loved one to connect the beginning of the message with the middle and end. To help this, break up the message or story into small chunks and simple sentences so they can follow along, and even if they get a bit lost along the way, they are still comprehending each section.
If you are looking for more resources or information on care options for your aging loved one, please reach out to Sunways directly so we can help support you on your journey!
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Elli is the President of Sunways and loves spending time outside with her family, and is passionate about cooking and holistic health.