Lisa Ost-Beikmann, Director of Education for the National Association of Activity Professionals, and Scott Silknitter, founder of R.O.S. Therapy Systems, share how to communicate with someone who has dementia.
Learn more about which tools they use and tips to communicate with your loved one.
Having covered the First Pillar of Activities and Engagement — Knowing Your Loved One — in our previous article for Alzheimers.net, we now move to the Second Pillar — Communicating with Your Loved One.
It can be challenging and unsettling when your loved one begins to have communication issues due to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease or another related dementia. The good thing is it doesn’t have to be that way. There are tools and tips which can be used to help.
Before getting to those, let us look at some of the communication challenges your loved one may have. As their Alzheimer’s progresses, your loved one might:
Understanding some of those common changes in communication is a start. From there, we caregivers must be mindful of our communication style.
To be an effective communicator, we must begin by accepting that the key to effective communication is the ability to listen attentively.
As a caregiver, you must use techniques that provide an open non-threatening environment for your loved one. Your listening behavior can either enhance and encourage communication or shut down communication altogether, and it is the foundation of the Second Pillar of Activities and Engagement – Communicating with Your Loved One.
Here are some basic tips for success:
Although it may seem that most communication happens verbally, research has shown that nonverbal communication has more of an impact. Nonverbal communication occurs through an individual’s body language.
Here are five key elements to consider:
We know that in stressful situations, it can be hard to remember all of the tips above. If you take one thing from this article, remember to always remain calm and approach your loved one with a relaxed demeanor. With this open and non-threatening approach, your loved one will know that you are there to listen, which is the foundation of the Second Pillar of Activities and Engagement.
Building on that foundation, you want to remember that there is no right or wrong way of completing an activity, so you must be guiding and flexible, but not controlling.
In our next piece, we will cover the Third Pillar of Activities and Engagement — Routines and Preferences. If you cannot wait and need help now, please check out one of our family caregiver books.
Lisa Ost-Beikmann, AC-BC, ADC, CDP, CAEd, CADDCT, is Director of Education for the National Association of Activity Professionals. Scott Silknitter, inventor, author, speaker, is the founder of R.O.S. Therapy Systems which began as a 2010 project to help his mother and father in a 25-year battle with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
What communication changes have you seen in a loved one with dementia? Do you have any communication tips that you’d like to suggest? Share them with us in the comments below.
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