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Communication issues & Dementia
A few words of some Knowledge
I attend 2 support groups meetings each month to help me deal with my 89 yr. old mom's dementia. As this disease progresses it becomes more and more difficult for her as well as myself.
There are always changes and you have to re-learn how to accept and how to deal with them.
This month the group talked about communication with your loved ones with dementia. It was quite interesting and was a big help to me and I just wanted to pass along some of what it taught me...
As dementia progresses they find it more and more difficult to express themselves clearly and also to understand what others say. It can so very frustrating and difficult for both the person with the dementia and the family/caregiver.
One of the first things is make sure the problem isn't connected with vision or hearing. And even then, like for my mom she kept losing her glasses and eventually didn't even know what they were for. Also she, at a point, refused to wear her hearing aide.
Each person with dementia is unique and the difficulties in communicating thoughts and feelings are so different. It effects each persons brain in a different way...so can be difficult to say the least.
Here is a small list provided at the meeting of things that you may notice...
* They may have difficulty in finding a word. A related word may be given instead of one they cannot remember.
* They may talk fluently, but not make sense.
* They may not be able to understand what you are saying or may only be able to grasp- part of it.
* Writing and reading skill may deteriorate.
*They may lose their normal conventions of conversation and interrupt or even ignore a speaker or fail to respond when spoken to.
* They may have difficulty in expressing emotions appropriately. ...and I must add,my mom has all these problems, very much so. At this last meeting I learned that communication is made up of three parts:
* 55 % is body language, which is the message we give out by our facial expression, posture and gestures.
* 38 % is the tone and pitch of our voice
* 7% is the words we use.
This was amazing to me and so I asked who this test was performed on? and the answer was just normal everyday people.
...so you see it is so important to remember their feelings and emotions even though they may not totally understand what is being said. Also allow enough time for a response, they sometimes have a hard time when you say too many words, so use as few words as possible, hand motions help, looking directly in their eyes and no sudden moves without an explanation. Warn them what is happening next and allow them the time to absorb this.
Touch is a wonderful way to keep the persons attention and to communicate feelings of warmth and affection. We hold hands as we walk to the car or where ever we are going. She often rubs my leg whilst we drive around and sometimes she is crying happy tears, she tells me, cause I take her out into the world and the sunshine and we go to the river and listen to the sounds, or we go to the park and watch the young children playing. She won't get out of the car anymore, is content to just sit and absorb life from afar...and I am aware that even this will end :O(
It is also important to remain calm and talk in gentle, matter-of-fact ways. To try to keep your sentences short and simple, and focus on one idea at a time. Remembering to allow plenty of time for what you have said to be understood. And even then, mom sometimes doesn't understand...always smile and be cheerful cause they pick up on feelings...
The right environment is also a good thing to be aware of, like avoid competing noises, such as TV or radio ( I can't have the car radio on anymore). Also stay still while you are talking, it is easier for the person to follow what you are saying, many read your lips.
Try to maintain a routine, this is a way to help minimize confusion, for all family members and/or caregivers.
And then finally What NOT to do... (well please try not to...it gets difficult at times and is why I attend support groups offered by the Alzheimer's Organization.)
* don't argue with the person, they just can't put it together anymore.
* don't order your loved one around.
* don't tell them what they can and can't do, instead state what they can do.
* don't be condescending, it can be picked up in your voice, even if the words aren't understood.
* don't ask a lot of direct questions that rely on a good memory.
* don't talk about people in front of them as if they are not there.
I have done them all in the course of my learning and have found it is wise to try very hard to remember this each time we are together...She surely picks up on my mood and it can and has changed hers. So I am very careful and just hope maybe some of this writing helps anyone else going through the same things as I am.
They are so much back into childness and must be treated gently, caringly and Lovingly and just one more thing:
Losing the ability to communicate can be frustrating and difficult for the people with dementia, their families and carers. So positive communication can help maintain their dignity and self-esteem. A caring attitude and proper body language and last but not least, be flexible and allow plenty of time for a response...
who knows when we may be next??? :O) Hugs