Communication can be so much more than just the words we say to one another. A grin, gesture, or touch can communicate volumes. As dementia advances in a loved one, it may become necessary to experiment with various methods to stay connected. If you are unsure where you can start, try these ideas:
Body Positioning and Movement
Imagine seeing a businessperson dashing along the sidewalk, shuffling papers in a folder or gripping a cell phone securely in one hand while making exaggerated gestures with the other hand. You’ll likely assume that person is under great pressure, overwhelmed, and rushed.
Now imagine a person swaying gently back and forth while cradling a baby in their arms. The emotions communicated are of peace, calm, and comfort.
Keep an eye on your personal body language during your interactions with a loved one with dementia, being careful not to communicate frustration, anger, or impatience. Slower, relaxed movements, with a kind facial expression, will express to the person with dementia that everything is okay.
Eye contact lets others see that you are focusing on them, and therefore what they have to say to you is important. For somebody with dementia, this should include approaching the person from the front so the person is aware of your presence, and keeping your face at their eye level. Refrain from getting too close, which is often intimidating, but instead respect their personal space.
Holding or patting the senior’s hand, hugging them, shaking hands, or giving a gentle back rub are good ways to show love or support, but make sure these types of physical affection are welcomed. A senior with dementia who’s not comfortable with being touched can become agitated and aggravated, or may feel as if they are condescending actions. Watch for any unfavorable responses and quickly stop any further physical touch if noted.
Even if the senior no longer understands the words you’re saying, the tone of voice you use can frequently still be interpreted. Talk in a comforting tone at a volume that’s neither too loud nor too soft. The individual might also like hearing you sing familiar songs, or even just humming. Again, pay attention to cues from the senior to make certain your voice isn’t provoking discomfort.
At Hearts at Home In-Home Care, our caregiving team is specially trained in imaginative approaches to socializing and interacting with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
We’re always here to provide additional recommendations and information about dementia caregiving, as well as the in-home respite care that gives you the opportunity to step away for some self-care anytime you need. Taking good care of yourself is paramount to taking proper care of a senior you love with dementia, and with Hearts at Home In-Home Care, one of the best home health agencies in Kansas City, KS and surrounding areas, by your side, both you and the senior you love will benefit.