Communication with a senior struggling with the challenges of Alzheimer’s, particularly in the middle and later stages, can be frustrating – both for you and for your loved one. Brain changes impact the ability to hear, process, and respond appropriately to conversations, and it’s up to us to implement new methods of communicating to more effectively connect with someone with dementia.
The good news is, it’s easier than it may seem. We already communicate nonverbally in a variety of ways:
- Posture and body movement
- Eye contact
- Facial expressions
- Personal space
Try these techniques to incorporate more nonverbal communication for dementia patients into your interactions with your loved one:
- Offer reassurance through gentle touch. If a loved one is comfortable with touch, hold and pat the senior’s hand, rub the person’s back, place an arm around his or her shoulders, and give warm hugs.
- Look the senior in the eye. Eye contact conveys interest in the person, even when no words are spoken.
- Respect personal boundaries. Avoid intimidating the senior by allowing sufficient personal space, and making sure you’re at the same level as the person, never towering over him or her. Your face should always be at eye level with the senior.
- Maintain a calm, patient, and positive demeanor. Suppress any anger, frustration or impatience, and focus on keeping a relaxed and pleasant expression on your face when with your loved one. If this proves to be difficult based on challenging behaviors, step away briefly and practice deep breathing or other relaxation techniques, such as:
- Square breathing: Use your finger to trace the shape of a square in front of you. When tracing the first side, breathe in deeply for a count of three; for the next side, hold your breath for one second; for the third side, breathe out for a count of three; and for the fourth side, hold your breath for one second. Repeat as needed.
- Calming phrase repetition: A few examples to get you started: This will pass, and everything is ok. I can handle this. I am safe and well.
- Distracted thinking: Practice concentrated refocusing. Try saying the alphabet backwards, listing as many state capitals as you can, or singing the words to a favorite song.
Find more creative approaches to effective dementia care by contacting Home Sweet Home In-Home Care. Our caregivers are specially trained in the most up-to-date Alzheimer’s care techniques, and we’re always available to help a loved one with dementia remain safe and calm, and to enjoy life to his or her fullest possible potential. Call us at (269) 373-5444 any time to learn more about how we provide Portage home health services for residents in the surrounding area. To learn more about the other areas our team serves throughout southwest Michigan, please visit our Service Area page or call (269) 763-5350 in Paw Paw, (269) 849-9252 in St. Joseph or (269) 963-9888 in Battle Creek.