When a senior loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it can be extremely difficult for many reasons. As the disease progresses, their communication skills will decline and it will become harder to talk and carry on together like you once did. When this happens, it’s important to stay patient and still prioritize keeping connected. Below, our memory care in Venice has outlined strategies that you can use to improve the quality of communication and ensure that your loved one feels heard and cared for.
Limit Outside Distractions
Right away, one of the first things you want to do is ensure that you and your loved one are in a quiet, calm environment. Not only will this help them feel more at ease, but it will also limit outside distractions or noise that could impair their ability to focus or increase their anxiety. If you are visiting them at our memory care in Venice, their luxury apartment should provide this kind of setting. When you are out in public, such as at a cafe or restaurant, opt for a quiet corner. This will help them to feel more comfortable and improve the quality of your time together.
Use Your Natural Speaking Voice and Include Hand Gestures
All too often, people assume that they need to raise or lower their voice when speaking to a loved one with cognitive decline. However, using your natural speaking voice and keeping your tone friendly and warm is actually the best option. Make sure that you are using clear, concise sentences and avoid using slang or confusing colloquialisms. Also, adding in hand gestures that make sense with your dialogue, such as a thumbs up when complimenting them or pointing to an object that you’re talking about, will help reiterate your speech.
Clearly Communicate Names
When telling a story about a friend or family member, be sure to use their name directly. It is best to avoid terms such as ‘my husband’ or ‘my friend’. Even if your loved one is very familiar with the person and knows what relationship you have with them, too many titles can get confusing. Instead, using their names directly can help your loved one keep track of your story easier and minimize misunderstandings.
In addition to this, don’t forget to apply this same practice to yourself. This is especially true for those who have later stage dementia and may struggle to forget key information about their direct loved ones. Don’t introduce yourself solely by your name, but instead, include your relationship as well. “Good morning, dad. It’s me, your son Steven” is far more helpful than simply saying “I’m Steven.”
Stick to One Topic at a Time
Another communication strategy to remember when spending time with your loved one who is a resident at the best memory care in Venice is to stay on topic. Bouncing around from one thing to the next too quickly might make them feel anxious or overwhelmed. In order to minimize frustration, ask open-ended questions. You will want to avoid sounding like you’re grilling them or asking them too much all at once.
Body Language Matters
It is very important to remember that body language is a very necessary part of communication. When talking with a loved one with dementia, be mindful of what body language you are using. You don’t want to come across as disinterested, annoyed, or anxious.
Here are a few nonverbal cues you can use to help you have a positive experience with your loved one:
- Smile - Smiling is a great way to convey that you are happy to be spending time together and enjoy their company.
- Maintain eye contact - Keeping eye contact shows that you are listening, engaged, and interested in the conversation.
- Hold their hand - This gesture can be very comforting and grounding to the person with dementia and can really reiterate that you care.
- Be present - Last but certainly not least, just be present in the moment. Don’t have your cell phone out or watch TV. Instead, keep your attention solely focused on them.
Think Outside the Box
If your loved one is in the later stages of dementia, it is very important to get creative and think outside the box when it comes to spending time together. Traditional communication methods, such as sitting down and chatting over a cup of coffee, might not be the most effective. You know your loved one very well and likely understand what interests them. If they enjoyed music, try listening to their favorite songs together and singing along. For those who are artsy and creative, painting on a canvas or doing a craft together could be a lot of fun. Even if you don’t talk a lot during the activity, just spending quality time with one another is meaningful and memorable.
Be Patient Through the Ups and Downs
Last but certainly not least, it’s imperative to remember that there will always be good days and bad days. Every stage of dementia is different and can present a unique set of challenges and obstacles. Try to be as patient as you can throughout it all and don’t be afraid to take a breather or practice self care along the way. This is a very difficult time and patience with yourself is just as important as practicing patience with your loved one.