Are you having a hard time understanding, communicating, and coping with a person living with dementia? AMC Founder Ron Gregory writes the following advice for caregivers regarding non-verbal communication:
When a person living with Alzheimer’s/dementia changes the way they communicate, most of us become what best be called discombobulated:
Discombobulated | confused, diconcerted, upset, frustrated, and then angry.
This happens because we continue to communicate with them in the same way we always have over the course of our lives. Sooner or later most of us realize—this isn’t going to work. Here are some communication tips that might help you improve your ability to understand, cope, and communicate with a person living with dementia.
Meet harsh words with equal and opposite nonverbal communication
My mother would say to me over and over again, “Get out, I don’t want you here, I can take of myself.” Of course, I would try to explain to her she could no longer live by herself and that she needed help, but all this did was make her angry and we would have a bad day. Think about it: She just told me she could take care of herself, so it definitely didn’t make her happy when I told her that she couldn’t. I would try every long-winded explanation under the sun, none of them worked, and they always made things worse. Finally, after a couple of years of complete frustration and walking around in Alzheimer’s world for a while, it dawned on me
Dementia Care = Meanness + Kindness
So I finally shut my mouth and didn’t say a word the next time she was frustrated and told me to get out. Instead, I was over to my mom, put my arm around her shoulder, laid my head on her head, and said, “I’m here now and I am going to take care of you.” Then, after hanging onto her for awhile, I turned to her and she smiled and replied, “It’s you AND me, now.” AND SHE STOPPED TELLING ME TO GET OUT. Finding the balance between being kind, yet firm is key when communication with someone with Alzheimer’s.
Communications in the Alzheimer’s World
Touch & Kindness in Alzheimer’s Care
I had my mother strategically positioned in a chair that I could walk by many time a day. Each time I walked by, I smiled and waited for her to smile back at me. Side note, I can say from experience that most Alzheimer’s patients have a very sweet smile. When I would stand next to her I would stick my hand out, she would reach out and put her hand on mine. An automatic nonverbal response.
Hand to hand contact is a wonderful way to communicate without saying a work. This type of communication creates a connection and sends a very clear message to the brain; one of reassurance, compassion, and love. Ever feel disconnected from your loved one living with dementia? Try this for awhile and watch the look change on your loved one’s face. See if they start to act nicer or more cooperative. Holding their hand can be a powerful way to reconnect, I promise it can help.