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Communication and Dementia Care

Dementia claims lives from the inside out and it can be very painful for loved ones to witness the mental demise of one they care about.

The process can be slow and tedious taking twists and turns that can be frightening or alarming for both you and your loved one. What has been normal communication for decades begins to change and the new normal keeps changing.

Even though communication between you and your loved one becomes altered as the disease progresses, with patience and understanding, you can help keep lines of communication open. Patience will play a crucial role in your success with your ever-changing role in the relationship. You may also need to refine some of your latent skills in order to have the connections you desire.

Two Forms of Communication

People communicate verbally and non-verbally. Even though the main method of communication seems to be verbal, how we say a thing and our body language often speaks volumes more than the words themselves. When communicating with a person with dementia, it is good to keep this in mind.

Everything can matter when speaking to the Alzheimer’s patient. The tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, etc. can convey a variety of messages. Joy, happiness, sadness, frustration, disappointment and more can be communicated through your speech and your nonverbal actions.

Non-verbal communication is very powerful and with those who have dementia, it can mean the difference between a gentle exchange and a torrid rant. As dementia progresses, the Alzheimer’s patient may increasingly rely on nonverbal communication. Instead of using words, feelings and desires may be conveyed through facial expressions and vocal sounds.

Welcome to a Different Ball Game

In the past communication may have been rather straight forward. Now the new normal may seem warped and unfamiliar. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will be helpful and being open to the idea that these things can still change as time goes on. This is why patience, with yourself as well as your loved one is so important.

The world of the person with dementia is slowly changing. Forgetting words, not being able to organize words into a cohesive sentence, getting distracted easily, all these things impact the person. Over time your loved one may begin to speak less often as the disease continues to wreak havoc on neural pathways.

Patience is a Virtue

Communicating with a person with dementia is challenging and can test one’s patience. One commonality of the disease is repetition. It is not unusual for a person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia to get stuck. Asking about the time or the date over and over again is experienced by many. Repeating the same story several times in one sitting as if each time is the first is not unusual.

This behavior can be exhausting. You can redirect the person’s thoughts to another topic or try to spark interest in something else, for example, the health of a plant, or a photograph. Gently interrupting the cycle of repetition may turn the person’s attention to another subject.

When the person is struggling to find a word or get a sentence out correctly, it can be tempting to interrupt, finish the sentence or otherwise shut the person down. This can produce frustration for both of you. You can offer help. If it’s received, good; if not, refrain from forcing the issue. Take a deep breath and listen with your ears and your eyes. Your loved one will appreciate your patience.

Be Mindful of Your Surroundings

Communication in busy, noisy surroundings can be challenging for many people, with or without dementia. For those with dementia, it can be very frustrating. When you want to communicate with your loved one, choose a quiet, less distracting environment.

One-on-one communication with eye contact is helpful, particularly during the middle stage of Alzheimer’s. In this way, your loved one knows you are listening and that you care.

Living in Their World

Most of us prefer things to proceed along known paths. Dementia moves those paths and crisscrosses them in ways that can be very unsettling. Conversations about people and things can get confusing and while it may seem reasonable to constantly correct your loved one so he or she will “get it straight,” this is not always the best route to take.

In the initial stages of dementia, a correction may be welcomed or accepted. Later, it can become a source of irritation and frustration leading to arguments. Let it go. Be patient and kind. Your mom may think you are her sister. When correction doesn’t change her thoughts, let it go. Grandchildren may be seen as children as the disease progresses. Yes, it can be unsettling, but let it go.

Love Will Find a Way

Dementia takes away a lot from everyone, not just the person afflicted with the disease. It is important to remember that even though there may come a time where your loved one will no longer recognize you or the ones they love, still within the person is the person you care about. Your patience, gentleness, and understanding will go a long way in communicating with your loved one when words may no longer suffice.

About Care Home Care is committed to helping you help your loved one continue living in their home with a high standard of quality of life. We provide certified, caring, and dedicated caregivers who offer compassionate assistance and support with excellence and integrity. Contact us today for more information about our services and find out how we can help.

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