Effective communication skills can be difficult for us to learn as dementia caregivers. We really have to rethink our approach. The tips offered here are an excellent reference to keep handy.
As the disease progresses, the communication skills of a person with dementia will gradually decline. Eventually, he or she will have more difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions. Ultimately, the person will be unable to understand what is being communicated and lose the ability for verbal expression.
The challenges associated with communication can lead to frustration. It can be helpful for you to understand what changes may occur over time so you can prepare and make adjustments. Anticipating these changes and knowing how to respond can help everyone communicate more effectively.
Tips for successful communication:
- Allow time for response so the person can think about what he or she wants to say.
- Engage the person in one-on-one conversation in a quiet space with minimal distractions.
- Be patient and supportive. Offering comfort and reassurance can encourage the person to explain his or her thoughts.
- Maintain good eye contact. It shows you care…
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2 responses to “Communication Strategies”
Inaccurate communication creates a lot of misunderstandings in caregiving situations. I would say something to my mother-in-law, she would reply (I thought appropriately), and then later it would be, “I didn’t say that.” I couldn’t get a grasp on the reason: Was she not listening? Was she not hearing? Was it the beginning stages of dementia?
I suggested that she reflect back to me with her responses. For example, when asked, “Would you like a cup of tea?” that she respond, “ Yes, I would like a cup of tea.” instead of just “Yes.” Not a simple skill for an 89-year-old to adopt.
When I took her to a friend’s birthday party at a restaurant, people took turns standing and making lovely comments about the birthday girl. After we returned home, MIL admitted for the first time that she could not hear what anyone was saying, and that maybe she did need hearing aids. (She disliked all symbols of “getting old.”) Unfortunately, the adjustment was difficult, and although we did not give up on them, the aids never really helped much.
Not hearing accurately is very frustrating for everyone in the caregiving situation. The communication strategies discussed in the article Joy Johnson shared in The Memories Project are applicable well-beyond the scope of dementia.
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