Trying to connect with an aging loved one with Alzheimer’s through conversation, particularly in the middle and later stages, is often a challenge – both for you and for the person with Alzheimer’s. Brain changes affect the ability to listen, process, and respond appropriately to conversations, and it’s up to us to put into action innovative Alzheimer’s communication tactics to more effectively interact with a loved one with dementia.
Fortunately, it is easier than you may realize, through nonverbal communication. We already communicate nonverbally in several ways:
- Eye contact
- Physical contact
- Facial expressions
- Posture and body movement
- Personal space
Try these strategies to incorporate additional nonverbal Alzheimer’s communication into your interactions with a senior loved one:
- Offer support through gentle touch. If the individual is comfortable with touch, hold and pat the senior’s hand, massage the person’s back, place an arm around his/her shoulders, and offer affectionate hugs.
- Honor personal boundaries. Avoid overwhelming the senior by allowing adequate personal space, and making certain you are at the same level as the person, never towering over them. Your face should be at eye level with the older adult.
- Look the senior in the eye. Eye contact conveys interest in the person, even if no words are spoken.
- Maintain a relaxed, patient, and positive attitude. Quash any anger, annoyance or impatience, and concentrate on maintaining a calm and pleasant look on your face when with a person with dementia. If this is difficult based on challenging behaviors, walk away momentarily and practice deep breathing or any other relaxation strategies, such as:
- Distracted thinking: Practice concentrated refocusing. Try reciting the alphabet backwards, listing as many state capitals as you possibly can, or singing the lyrics to a popular song.
- Relaxing phrase repetition: A few examples to help you get started: This will pass, and things are ok. I am able to manage this. I am secure and well.
- Square breathing: Use a finger to draw 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.
Find more creative techniques for successful Alzheimer’s communication by contacting Endeavor In Home Care. Our caretakers are specially trained in the most current Alzheimer’s care techniques, and we are always available to assist a family member with dementia to remain safe and calm, and to enjoy life to his or her fullest possible potential. Contact us at (480) 498-2324 at any time for assistance with home care in Phoenix and the nearby areas.