Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that takes years away from the people we love most. It is a disease where plaque particles become entangled in the brain effecting a person’s judgement and reasoning. It ultimately ends up effecting both short term and long-term memory causing the person effected to have difficulty with clear reasoning. These effects often make it hard to communicate with the patient for both caregivers and family. That is why it is important to understand the disease and try to create a strategy to implement to help make communication easier.
How does dementia alter interpersonal communication?
Dementia is a state of regression. When your patient is experiencing repetitive questioning, shadow you, or become combative it is because they no longer know how to communicate and express with words their needs and emotions. When we can identify their behaviors and triggers, we are then able to redirect those behaviors. This will help make life for a dementia easier, whether it is with an activity such as helping fold laundry or a crossword puzzle. Positive reinforcement is a great way to help them redirect behaviors that could be harmful to them.
Steps to Improve Communication with Dementia Patients
In order to be able to communicate better with a person who has dementia, it is good to be able to know the entire history and schedule of the patient. If the patient has a routine it is good to try to stick with that routine, because they are familiar with that process, and it helps detour bad behaviors later. So, here are some tips that will help you be able to better communicate with your dementia patient.
Use Simple, Short Sentences: People with dementia are able to pick up how we are feeling. So, if you are sad happy, nervous, or anxious they are going to be able to know. Using short simple sentences helps the patient with dementia process the schedule for the day. It also helps them not be anxious as they are not receiving a lot of information at one time that they need to process that may confuse them.
Use Eye Contact: using eye contact helps the patient with dementia understand that you care about them and you are there to help and listen. As a caregiver, you should always engage the patient with eye contact as it will help you understand their emotions and feelings. Sometimes Dementia Patients don’t have the words to express how they are feeling, and eye contact helps them convey that emotion.
Be Proactive with Communication: Patients with Dementia sometimes experience what is known as Sundowning. This occurs when the person becomes confused or irritated, and usually happens in the late afternoon and early evening. You must try to redirect their attention to a more positive energy because it is hard to talk to the Dementia patient once they start experiencing sundowning. If you know this will occur at a specific time of day, you can be proactive and redirect them before they have an episode. Whether it is taking them for a walk or doing a project it will help them be less anxious.
Focus on their Favorite Activities: You must modify their favorite activities to suit their Dementia. They can still do their favorite activities; they just need supervision. If the patient has a love for cooking but can’t remember how to complete all the steps of the recipe, maybe preparing all the ingredients then allowing them to assemble the meal will help make them feel like themselves again. Once the client is bedbound maybe you can still bring the patient into the kitchen and allow them to be a part of prepping meals.
Some of the things to remember when you are caring for a patient whether it is your own family, or you are a caregiver. Remember you are not alone; Dementia is a common condition that effects Millions of people each year. It takes a special person to care for any patients during long term care.
If you need any additional help call the experts at Gentle Shepherd Home Care and we would be happy to help with anything you or your loved one may need. Call toll free at (719)359-8371 today for additional assistance.