Connecting with a senior loved one trying to cope with all the struggles of Alzheimer’s or dementia, particularly in the middle and later stages, may be frustrating – both for you and for your loved one. Brain changes affect the ability to hear, process, and respond effectively to conversations, and it’s up to us to employ new ways of communicating in order to connect with an individual more successfully.
However, doing so is much easier than it may seem. We already communicate nonverbally in a variety of ways, such as:
- Physical contact
- Posture and motion
- Eye contact
- Facial expressions
- Personal space
Consider these methods to incorporate more nonverbal communication in your interactions with a senior loved one:
- Offer assurance through a caring touch. If a senior loved one is comfortable with touch, hold and pat the senior’s hand, rub his/her back, put an arm around your loved one’s shoulders, and provide affectionate hugs.
- Look the senior in the eye. Eye contact conveys interest in the person, even if no words are spoken.
- Respect personal boundaries. Refrain from overwhelming the individual by permitting ample personal space, making certain you’re at the same level as the individual, never towering over him or her. Your face should be at eye level with the older adult.
- Maintain a peaceful, patient, and confident attitude. Suppress any anger, annoyance or impatience, and concentrate on maintaining a calm and pleasant expression on your face when with a loved one with dementia. If this is impossible based on challenging behaviors, step away briefly and practice deep breathing or any other relaxation strategies; for example:
- 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 necessary.
- Calming phrase repetition: A few examples to get you started: “This will pass, and everything is ok. I am able to manage this. I am safe and well.”
- Distracted thinking: Practice concentrated refocusing. Try saying the alphabet backwards, stating as many state capitals as you possibly can, or singing the words to a popular song.
Discover more creative strategies to successful dementia care by getting in touch with Amy’s Helping Hands. Our caregivers are specially trained in the most current Alzheimer’s and dementia care techniques, and we are always available to help a loved one with dementia to remain safe and calm, and to enjoy life to his/her greatest possible potential. Reach out to us at 519.915.4370 any time to schedule a free in-home assessment, or to learn more about our Windsor-Essex area home care options.