Connect With All 5 Senses Not Just Words
Touch can be a powerful way to show affection for a person with dementia when words no longer convey what they once did. So can methods that tap into the other senses.
I know one woman who gives her mother hand massages with her moms favorite scented lotion, Drew says. Its connecting and using touch and a familiar fragrance in a way thats comforting.
Simply going outside together on a nice day enjoying the sights and sounds and feeling the sun on your faces can be a way to connect, Drew adds.
The Video Chat Learning Curve
Due to the pandemic, its Facetime with my grandma for the foreseeable future. In the beginning, it was rough.
Wed run out of things to say and there were awkward silences. Id ask her questions about her day that she couldnt answer because she didnt remember. Shed get confused by the paintings behind me. Sometimes Id call and she was still asleep.
Im an occupational therapist myself and worked in a memory care facility. Despite my professional experience, I learned that virtual communication adds a whole new layer of difficulty.
Over the past 7 months, Ive adjusted my communication techniques to have more comfortable, effective, and enjoyable conversations for both of us.
Those Are Good Starting Points Then What
One thing is certainvisits will go better if you are prepared with a plan. Be prepared by visiting at a good time of day for your loved one, and keep your stay short. Go with some ideas for conversation, but be prepared to follow their lead if they are especially talkative that day. Have a plan for an activity. ;Here are some specific ideas to help a visit go well:
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Dont Neglect Your Own Needs
By always focusing so diligently on your loved ones needs throughout the progression of their dementia, its easy to fall into the trap of neglecting your own welfare. If youre not getting the physical and emotional support you need, you wont be able to provide the best level of care, and youre more likely to become overwhelmed and suffer burnout.
Plan for your own care. Visit your doctor for regular checkups and pay attention to the signs and symptoms of excessive stress. Its easy to abandon the people and activities you love when youre mired in caregiving, but you risk your health and peace of mind by doing so. Take time away from caregiving to maintain friendships, social contacts, and professional networks, and pursue the hobbies and interests that bring you joy.
How To Talk To Someone With Alzheimers: 4 Real
Each person with Alzheimers or dementia is different and will have a different level of cognitive impairment.;
Use these 4 examples as a starting point and experiment to find what works best for both your older adult and you.
Example 1: Its time for your older adult to use the restroomDO say: Its time to go to the bathroom now.
DONT say:;Its been about an hour since you last visited the bathroom so why dont we go to the bathroom and you can give it a try. Ok? How does that sound? Do you want to go to the bathroom now?
Example 2: Its time for your older adult to have lunchDO say: Mmmmm, its time to eat spaghetti!Lets go to the kitchen.
DONT say: Are you hungry? Its lunch time and I thought youd enjoy one of your favorites spaghetti. Lets go to the kitchen so you can eat. After lunch, well go outside for a walk so you can get some fresh air. How does that sound?
Example 3: Youre taking your older adult to a doctor appointmentDO say: Its time to go outHeres your jacketLets get into the car.
DONT say: Were going to see Dr. Lee today. Shes going to check to see how youre doing with those new medications. Remember how we had to reschedule the appointment from last month? Im glad she had an opening this soon. You know what? Its a little chilly today, why dont you put on your jacket while I get the keys and then well go out to the car together.
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How Does Dementia Affect Communication
The effects of dementia on the brain can worsen;a persons:
- Communication and cognition
- Visual perception
- Problem-solving skills
Signs of dementia begin when healthy neurons or nerve cells in the brain stop working with other brain cells and die, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. While losing neurons is more common with age, people with dementia experience a severe loss of neurons, which can contribute to personality changes, a decrease in communication skills, and losing emotional control.
Be Patient And Avoid Jumping In
Its best to give your loved one extra time to process what you say. If you ask a question, patiently wait for their response and avoid rushing an answer. Get comfortable with silence while your loved one is thinking.
When your loved one is struggling for a word, it can be tempting to jump in. But rather than helping, you may unintentionally derail their thought process, Gurung says.
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Dont Expect Them To Conform To Present
As strange as that may sound, learn how to enter into the patients/loved one’s world and not expect them to conform to our present day. As Diane Waugh, BSN, RN, CDP, says in the video above: When I had to deal with memory loss with my own mother, I found the hardest thing for me to do was to not try to drag her into my reality, but;to go live where she was living, in her understanding.
Caregivers and/or family members should remember: give up expectations of the patient and/or loved one .;Giving up expectations can;make room for what the patient and/or loved one’s strengths are .
Helping A Person Who Is Aware Of Memory Loss
Alzheimers disease is being diagnosed at earlier stages. This means that many people are aware of how the disease is affecting their memory. Here are tips on how to help someone who knows that he or she has memory problems:
- Take time to listen. The person may want to talk about the changes he or she is noticing.
- Be as sensitive as you can. Don’t just correct the person every time he or she forgets something or says something odd. Try to understand that it’s a struggle for the person to communicate.
- Be patient when someone with Alzheimer’s disease has trouble finding the right words or putting feelings into words.
- Help the person find words to express thoughts and feelings. But be careful not to put words in the persons mouth or fill in the blanks too quickly. For example, Mrs. D cried after forgetting her garden club meeting. She finally said, “I wish they stopped.” Her daughter said, “You wish your friends had stopped by for you.” Mrs. D nodded and repeated some of the words. Then Mrs. D said, “I want to go.” Her daughter said, “You want to go to the garden club meeting.” Again, Mrs. D nodded and repeated the words.
- Be aware of nonverbal communication. As people lose the ability to talk clearly, they may rely on other ways to communicate their thoughts and feelings. For example, their facial expressions may show sadness, anger, or frustration. Grasping at their undergarments may tell you they need to use the bathroom.
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Other Factors That Can Affect Behavior
In addition to changes in the brain, other things may affect how people with Alzheimers behave:
- Feelings such as sadness, fear, stress, confusion, or anxiety
- Health-related problems, including illness, pain, new medications, or lack of sleep
- Other physical issues like infections, constipation, hunger or thirst, or problems seeing or hearing
Other problems in their surroundings may affect behavior for a person with Alzheimers disease. Too much noise, such as TV, radio, or many people talking at once can cause frustration and confusion. Stepping from one type of flooring to another or the way the floor looks may make the person think he or she needs to take a step down. Mirrors may make them think that a mirror image is another person in the room. For tips on creating an Alzheimers-safe home, visit Home Safety and Alzheimers Disease.
If you dont know what is causing the problem, call the doctor. It could be caused by a physical or medical issue.
Use Visual Aids And Other Prompts
Having some key words or pictures on cards in front of you can really help people with dementia stay focused. They will often struggle to keep the topic of the conversation in mind as the conversation progresses. Having pictures or objects in front of you will help. For example, if the conversation is about medication, have the medication on the table or use a picture of someone receiving medication there.
Music offers another way to communicate. It can lift a persons mood and allow them to express their emotions. For more information on the benefits of music, see the Creative arts feature in Keeping active and occupied.
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How To Finish The Conversation
Just as you prepared to start a conversation, so you must think about how you will bring it to a close. If you are leaving the persons home, make sure you say goodbye. You should not leave the person thinking you are still in their home, perhaps in another room. This may cause confusion or anxiety.
Ensure you have their attention, smile, and let them know you enjoyed your time together and the conversation. Shaking their hand or touching them is a common gesture which gives them a strong clue you are leaving. Leave them reassured and let them know you look forward to talking again. If you are likely to be speaking to them very soon, for example later that day, say when you will return and leave a note close by indicating when the next visit will be.
Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Changes In Communication Skills
Communication is hard for people with Alzheimers disease because they have trouble remembering things. They may struggle to find words or forget what they want to say. You may feel impatient and wish they could just say what they want, but they cant.
The person with Alzheimers may have problems with:
- Finding the right word or losing his or her train of thought when speaking
- Understanding what words mean
- Paying attention during long conversations
- Remembering the steps in common activities, such as cooking a meal, paying bills, or getting dressed
- Blocking out background noises from the radio, TV, or conversations
- Frustration if communication isnt working
- Being very sensitive to touch and to the tone and loudness of voices
Also, Alzheimers disease causes some people to get confused about language. For example, the person might forget or no longer understand English if it was learned as a second language. Instead, he or she might understand and use only the first language learned, such as Spanish.
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Take Things In Stride
Before you go to visit your loved one with dementia, be prepared that they might have a very limited response to your presence. Don’t take it personally or actively seek recognition .
Acceptance is key. Remember that dementia affects a person’s ability to communicate, express emotion, or make connections between current experiences and past memories.
Take the opportunity to express your love without expecting anything back. It will not only make your visit less stressful but provide an overall greater sense of calm to the atmosphere.
If there is disruptive behavior, you are more likely to respond accordinglyneither responding rashly nor taking things personallyif you understand what dementia is and have reasonable expectations walking in.
Communication Changes When Someone Has Alzheimers
So, that might leave you wondering how to talk to someone with Alzheimers.
It turns out that speaking in short, direct sentences is a way to communicate thats more comfortable for them.;
With less information to process, theyre more likely to understand what youre saying and respond appropriately.
We explain why this technique works and share 4 real-life examples of how to communicate kindly while using fewer words.
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Tips For Having The Talk With A Parent About Dementia Symptoms
Adult children;commonly have a hard time broaching the subject of dementia with a loved one. Ruth Drew, Director of Family and Information Services at the Alzheimers Association, says, I think people are worried about hurting a family relationship or upsetting people that they care about.
Drew also says that broaching the topic early helps everyone. When you know what youre dealing with upfront, then you can plan, she adds. The person can have a voice in what happens next.
If your loved one is exhibiting dementia symptoms, it is crucial to have the talk with him or her as soon as possible.
Here are six;tips for talking with someone you love about dementia:
It May Feel Like The First Time For The Person With Dementia
Short-term memory loss in a person with dementia can prove challenging for family and friends and when providing care and support. While you may see the person several times during a day, each visit may feel like the first for them. This can have a great impact on a conversation, so consider how you would respond. The best approach for a care worker in these circumstances may be to introduce yourself on each visit and explain why you are there.
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Whats The Best Way To Talk To Someone With Alzheimers
During a routine trip to my local grocery, I ran into an acquaintance I had not seen in more than a year. She looked great and was her typically upbeat, energetic self. We exchanged hellos. I was not prepared for what came next.
I was recently diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimers, she said.
This warm, accomplished, Berkeley-educated woman, a mother and grandmother who was my go-to person for local political goings-on, great books and recipes, then said, without skipping a beat, I am doing okay right now, and I have signed up for a clinical trial.
The support her husband provides is clearly key. When I comment on how great she looks so put-together she laughs. Not long ago, her husband went with her to Neiman Marcus to see her favorite makeup artist. He told the artist that his wife has Alzheimers and asked that she make over his wife while he paid close attention. I watched. I took notes and typed them up, he said. And now I do her makeup. Its good I have time.
But for my friend, as with all Alzheimers patients, the disease inevitably does change relationships as memory, language and the ability to manage independently fail. Figuring out how to interact can be challenging at that point, Drew and other experts say.
Go where the person takes you, Marano said. If you are worried they wont remember you, just say, Hi its Susan. How are you?
Wonderlin says friends and relatives of Alzheimers patients can be put into three categories:
Communicating Through Body Language And Physical Contact
Communication is not just talking. Gestures, movement and facial expressions can all convey meaning or help you get a message across. Body language and physical contact become significant when speech is difficult for a person with dementia.
When someone has difficulty speaking or understanding, try to:
- be patient and remain calm, which can help the person communicate more easily
- keep your tone of voice positive and friendly, where possible
- talk to them at a respectful distance to avoid intimidating them being at the same level or lower than they are can also help
- pat or hold the person’s hand while talking to them to help reassure them and make you feel closer watch their body language and listen to what they say to see whether they’re comfortable with you doing this
It’s important that you encourage the person to communicate what they want, however they can. Remember, we all find it frustrating when we cannot communicate effectively, or are misunderstood.
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The Challenges And Rewards Of Alzheimers Care
Caring for a person with Alzheimers disease or dementia can often seem to be a series of grief experiences as you watch your loved ones memories disappear and skills erode. The person with dementia will change and behave in different, sometimes disturbing or upsetting ways. For both caregivers and their patients, these changes can produce an emotional wallop of confusion, frustration, and sadness.
As the disease advances through the different stages, your loved ones needs increase, your caregiving and financial responsibilities become more challenging, and the fatigue, stress, and isolation can become overwhelming. At the same time, the ability of your loved one to show appreciation for all your hard work only diminishes. Caregiving can literally seem like a thankless task.
For many, though, a caregivers journey includes not only huge challenges, but also many rich, life-affirming rewards.
Caregiving is a pure expression of love. Caring for a person with Alzheimers or dementia connects you on a deeper level. If you were already close, it can bring you closer. If you werent close before, it can help you resolve differences, find forgiveness, and build new, warmer memories with your family member.
Caregiving can teach younger family members the importance of caring, compassion, and acceptance. Caregiving for someone with dementia is such a selfless act. Despite the stress, demands, and heartache, it can bring out the best in us to serve as role models for our children.