Communication can be so much more than simply the spoken word. A grin, gesture, or touch can communicate a great deal. As dementia progresses in a senior, it may become necessary to try out different techniques to stay connected. If you are unsure where you should start, try these suggestions:
Body Positioning and Movement
Imagine seeing a businessperson dashing along 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 guess that person is under pressure, overwhelmed, and rushed.
Now visualize a person swaying gently to and from while cradling a baby in their arms. The emotions communicated are of comfort, peace, and calm.
Be mindful of your own personal body movements during your interactions with a senior with dementia, being careful not to show anger, impatience, or frustration. Slower, calm motions, with a relaxed facial expression, will express to the person with dementia that everything is okay.
Eye contact lets other people see that you are focusing on them, and that what they have to say to you is important. For someone with dementia, this should include approaching the individual from the front so there are no surprises, and keeping your face at their eye level. 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 giving a gentle back rub are excellent ways to show love or support, but be sure these types of physical affection are welcomed. A loved one with dementia who is not comfortable with being touched could become agitated and upset, or may feel as if they are condescending gestures. Watch for any unfavorable responses and immediately stop any further physical touch if noted.
Whether or not the senior still understands the words you are saying, the tone of voice you use can often still be understood. Talk in a comforting tone at a volume that’s neither too loud nor too quiet. The senior might also appreciate hearing you sing familiar tunes, or even just humming. Again, pay attention to hints from the senior to ensure your voice isn’t provoking discomfort.
At Inspired Home Care, a provider of award-winning elder care in Wilmette, IL and the surrounding areas, our in-home care team is uniquely trained in creative methods of communicating and connecting with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease along with other types of dementia.
We are always here to supply further communication tips for dementia care, along with the in-home respite care that gives you the time to step away for some self-care when you need a break. Looking after yourself is paramount to taking the best care of a senior you love with dementia, and with Inspired Home Care by your side, both you and the senior you love will benefit.