November 12, 2019

Senior woman spending quality time with her daughter

Communicating with seniors suffering from dementia does not need to be difficult.

Communicating with an older adult struggling with all the challenges of Alzheimer’s, especially in the middle and later stages, can be frustrating – both for you and for your senior loved one. Brain changes affect the capacity to hear, process, and respond appropriately to conversations, and it’s up to us to put into action new techniques for dementia communication to more effectively interact with a senior loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Fortunately, it is less complicated than you might think. We already communicate nonverbally in several ways:

  • Touch
  • Posture and body motion
  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Gestures
  • Personal space

Test out these techniques to integrate additional nonverbal communication into your interactions with a loved one challenged by Alzheimer’s:

  • Offer support through caring touch. If your family member is comfortable with touch, hold and pat the senior’s hand, rub the person’s back, put an arm around his or her shoulders, and provide affectionate hugs.
  • Look the person in the eye. Eye contact conveys interest in the senior, even if no words are said aloud.
  • Respect personal boundaries. Refrain from overwhelming the senior by allowing adequate personal space, and making sure you are at the same level as the individual, never towering over him or her. Your face should be at eye level with the other person.
  • Maintain a relaxed, patient, and confident demeanor. Quash any anger, frustration or impatience, and focus on maintaining a calm and pleasant look on your face when together with your loved one. If this is daunting because of difficult behaviors, step away momentarily and perform deep breathing or some other relaxation strategies. For example:
    • 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. Do it again as needed.
    • Calming phrase repetition: A few suggestions to get you started: This will pass, and things are ok. I’m able to 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 lyrics to a favorite song.

Discover more creative strategies to effective dementia communication by contacting Continuum. Our elderly care management providers are specially trained in the most current Alzheimer’s care techniques, and we are always available to assist a senior loved one with dementia to remain safe and calm, and to enjoy life to his or her fullest possible potential. Contact us at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 any time for assistance.