Although memory loss and confusion are the hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, a less well known, but equally concerning issue is the decline in communication skills. This is especially disconcerting for loved ones who strive to maintain as much normalcy in the relationship as possible, and can quickly become discouraged when the ability to connect with the Alzheimer’s patient comes to a standstill.
Nightingale Homecare, a professional Alzheimer’s care company in Phoenix, is specifically qualified in providing care to patients suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders through our unique approach taught by Dr. Verna Benner-Carson’s “Alzheimer’s Whisperer®” program, including communication skills. Our caregivers and professional staff are trained in these techniques and utilize these tools every day in our Connections program; and, we take the time to teach them to the families of our dementia clients as well.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia and communication has become difficult, these tips can help:
- Keep it simple! Simplify your statements and avoid being too lengthy. These are the primary rules we emphasize while communicating with a loved one with memory loss.
- It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
- 1. Say the individual’s name and identify yourself to him or her
- 2. Establish and maintain eye contact
- 3. State your message using simple words
- Keep it positive (and avoid the negative):
- Negative: “Don’t put your hand in the gravy!”
- Positive: “Please put your hands in your lap.” And, using gestures can be helpful.
- Avoid questions. We recommend limiting questions to those with dementia. For example, say, “We are having macaroni for lunch today” (smile) instead of, “What would you like for lunch today?” There are, however, exceptions. Remember life is about daily change, so it’s important to be flexible. If you need to ask a question, limit the choices given. For example, “Would you like chicken or macaroni today?”
- Take it one step at a time. We find that working with clients who have dementia is made easier when we break tasks into simple steps, such as:
- “Pick up the comb.”
- “Comb your hair.”
- “Pick up your toothbrush.”
- “Put the toothbrush on your teeth.”
- “Move the toothbrush on your teeth.”
- Speak to your loved on as an adult. Be aware of your tone of voice. Remember to preserve your loved one’s dignity at all times. Although it’s common to use the word “we,” as in, “Don’t we look pretty today?” it’s much more respectful to say, “You look very nice today.”
- Use non-verbal communication. Tone of voice, facial expressions, touch and gestures are effective and important parts of communicating with your loved one.
Alzheimer’s Whisperers enter the client’s world and manage the challenging behaviors associated with dementia in a way that is gentle, creative and highly effective. Our goal with Nightingale’s Connections program is to enable the person with dementia to continue to be cared for safely at home. Contact Nightingale Homecare for more information and for more examples on dementia and Alzheimer’s assessment, training and teaching tools.