Did you know that the spoken word provides only 7% of any message communicated between two people? Expression and how one says the words account for 35% of any message communicated. Body language accounts for 58% of any message. This means that more than 90% of our messages are communicated non-verbally.
Communication with a person who has Alzheimer’s Disease can be challenging and each person with the disease will be unique in what works for them.
Some of the retained skills for most people living with Alzheimer’s Disease are music, sense of humor, ability to read non-verbal’s, long term memory, and social graces.
Music and emotion are retained in more than one place in the brain. Using music and rhythm when wanting some to walk or get up or sit down works well. This technique is helpful with someone living with Parkinson’s Disease or Lewy Bodies Disease.
Humor can go a long way. Approaching with a smile, light mood, can often set the tone for how cooperative the person will be.
As I mentioned earlier, most communication is non-verbal’s, so your actions will speak louder than words. Pointing, touching, smiling all are generally well received.
As someone progresses in this disease, the long-term memory is what will be recalled the most. Looking at photo albums, scrapbooks, home movies are all well received. Making a memory box of past mementos are enjoyed as well.
Typically, people retain their social graces remembering to say please and thank you.
Some changes in their communication abilities are speaking less often, relying on gestures instead of speaking, reverting to speaking in their native language, and swearing.
Communicating with a person with dementia requires patience, understanding and being a good listener.
So, how do you help the person communicate?
When a person knows in their mind what they want to say but have a hard time putting it into words, that can be very upsetting. So be patient and supportive and let them know that you are listening and trying to understand. Show your interest with good eye contact and offer comfort and reassurance. Encourage them to continue to try and explain their thoughts. Give them time and be careful not to interrupt. Every time they are interrupted their thought process must go back to the very beginning. Avoid criticizing or correcting, instead listen close and try to understand what they are talking about and when they are done repeat back to be sure you have really understood their message.
If you just can’t understand what they are talking about ask them to show you or point to what they may be talking about.
It is so important to limit distractions. Turn off radios, TVs, find a nice quiet place to sit which will help support the person’s ability to focus on their thoughts.
Focus on their feelings and emotions. Sometimes the emotions being expressed are more important than what is being said. Look for the feelings behind the words. At times, tone of voice and other actions may provide clues.