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Helpful Tips for Communicating With a Senior With Dementia

Nonverbal strategies can help when communicating with a senior with dementia.

Conversations with an older adult struggling with all the difficulties of Alzheimer’s, particularly in the middle and later stages, could very well be discouraging – both for you and also for the person with Alzheimer’s. Brain changes affect the capacity to hear, process, and respond effectively to conversations, and it’s up to us to employ innovative ways of effectively interacting and communicating with a senior with dementia.

How Can I Help When Communicating With a Senior With Dementia?

The good thing is, it is considerably easier than it might seem. We already communicate nonverbally in lots of ways:

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

CareFor, a leading provider of Austin senior care and in-home caregiving in the surrounding areas, recommends these methods to incorporate additional nonverbal communication in your interactions with a senior loved one:

  • Offer reassurance through kind touch. If the person is comfortable with touch, hold and pat the senior’s hand, rub the senior’s back, place an arm around his or her shoulders, and offer affectionate hugs.
  • Look the senior in the eye. Eye contact expresses interest in the person, even when no words are spoken aloud.
  • Recognize personal boundaries. Refrain from intimidating your loved one by allowing adequate personal space and making certain you are at the same level as the senior, never towering over him or her. Your face should always be at eye level with the senior.
  • Maintain a peaceful, patient, and positive attitude. Quash any anger, annoyance, or impatience, and focus on maintaining a relaxed and pleasant look on your face when you’re with the individual. If this proves to be problematic due to difficult behaviors, walk away momentarily and perform deep breathing or any other relaxation strategies, such as:

o 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 following 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.

o Relaxing phrase repetition: A few examples to get you started: This will pass, and things are ok. I can manage this. I am secure and well.

o 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 techniques for effective Alzheimer’s care by getting in touch with CareFor. Our caregivers are specially trained in the most up-to-date Alzheimer’s care techniques, and we’re always available to help a senior with dementia to remain safe and calm and to enjoy life to his or her greatest possible potential. Contact us at (512) 338-4533 any time for assistance or to learn more about our Austin senior care and in-home caregiving in the surrounding areas.

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