By: The Coalition of NYS Alzheimer’s Association Chapters
It might feel challenging to communicate with people at varying stages of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Keeping the following communication strategies in mind at any stage can help ease the task.
Respect and empathy are key
Remember that the essence of the person continues. Respect the person as the adult he or she is, and adjust your communication based on what is meaningful to the person today, regardless of the stage.
Join the person’s reality to uncover the source of reactions and to connect
Keep in mind that behavior is a form of communication, and by seeing the world through his or her eyes, you can get clues about what the person is thinking and responding to. This connection also provides soothing and reassurance for the person with dementia.
Understand and accept what you can and cannot change
You cannot expect the person with the disease to behave as he or she might have in the past, with a reasonable response. If one of your communications isn’t getting the desired response, focus on what you can change in your own behavior or words to alter the situation.
Focus on feelings, not facts
Responding to a person’s feelings first can help avoid resistance, especially if the facts aren’t adding up.
Try to decode the person’s communications
The emotion behind the words or behavior being expressed is your most powerful tool when attempting to decode communication and connect with the person with dementia.
Recognize the effects of your own mood and actions
We all convey our moods through actions and tone of voice. People with dementia are sensitive to these moods and will often pick up and react to the feelings, sometimes causing feelings to escalate. Bringing self-awareness to each encounter can help mitigate conflicts.
Help meet the needs while soothing and calming the person
Provide what you can to meet the person’s needs, remembering to help the person feel safe and content.
If you or someone you know is struggling with taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you may want to look into a Memory Care facility, such as the GreenField Terrace, part of The GreenFields Continuing Care Community. Click here to contact us for more information or to schedule a tour.