Communication is a lot more than simply the spoken word. A smile, gesture, or touch can communicate a great deal as well. As dementia advances in a loved one, it may become essential to test out alternate methods to stay connected. Using non-verbal communication in dementia care is a great place to start. We recommend giving these suggestions a try:
Body Language and Movement
Picture seeing a businessperson hurrying along the sidewalk, shuffling papers in a folder or clutching a cell phone firmly in one hand while making exaggerated motions using the other hand. You can guess that person is under pressure, overwhelmed, and rushed.
Now visualize a person swaying softly back and forth while holding a baby in their arms. The feelings communicated are of peace, calm, and comfort.
Keep an eye on your own personal body movements throughout your interactions with a senior with dementia, being careful not to show impatience, frustration, or anger. Slow, relaxed movements, with a kind facial expression, will assure the person with dementia that all is safe and well.
Eye contact lets other people see that you are being attentive to them, and that what they have to say to you is important. For someone with dementia, this should include approaching the individual from the front so as not to surprise them, and keeping your face at their eye level. Refrain from getting too close, which can be intimidating, but instead respect their personal space.
Holding or patting the senior’s hand, giving a hug, shaking hands, or giving a gentle back rub are great ways to express love or reassurance, but make certain these types of physical affection are welcomed. A senior with dementia who is not comfortable with being touched could become distressed and upset, or may feel as if they are condescending expressions. Watch for any unfavorable responses and quickly stop any more physical touch if noted.
Even if the senior no longer understands the words you are saying, the tone of voice you use can frequently still be understood. Speak in a comforting tone at a volume that is neither too loud nor too quiet. The senior may also appreciate hearing you sing familiar tunes, or even just humming. Again, pay attention to cues from the senior to ensure your voice isn’t provoking discomfort.
At Absolute Companion Care, our caregiving team provides award-winning home care in Hunt Valley, MD and nearby areas and is specially trained in creative approaches to socializing and interacting with those with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
We’re always here to provide further recommendations and resources, along with the in-home care Hunt Valley families need in order to step away for a break when needed. Looking after yourself is key to taking good care of a senior you love with dementia, and with Absolute Companion Care by your side, both you and the senior you love will benefit.