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Published on: July 30, 2014
by Bob DeMarco for Alzheimer’s Reading Room:
It isn’t easy to learn how persons living with Alzheimer’s think, feel, and act; and, why they do what they do.This is understandable. No one taught us how to do it, and we are not prepared in life to deal with behaviors that are caused by brain disorders.
When a person living with dementia changes the way they communicate with us most of us become what can best be called discombobulated; confused, disconcerted, upset, frustrated, and then angry.
This happens because we continue to communicate with them in the way we always have over the course of our lives.
Sooner or later most of us realize, this isn’t going to work.
Here is a short list of nonverbal communication tips that might help you improve your ability to understand, cope, and communicate with a person living with dementia.
1. Meet Harsh Words With an Equal and Opposite Nonverbal Communication
My mother was saying over and over each day – get out, I don’t want you here, I can take of myself. Of course I tried to explain to her she could no longer live by herself. All this did was make her angry and we had a bad day. Think about it. She just told me she could take care of herself. So why would it make her happy when I told her she couldn’t? It didn’t.
I tried every long winded explanation under the sun and none of them worked. In fact, they made things worse.
Finally after a couple of years of complete frustration, and after walking around in Alzheimer’s World for a while, I got a brand new idea.
Meet meanness with kindness.
So I shut my mouth and didn’t say a word when it started to happen. Instead I walked over, put my arm around my mother’s shoulder, put my head on her head, and then said,
I’m here now, I am going to take care of you. Then after hanging on the her for a bit, I turned and smiled and said, “It’s you AND me now.” She stopped telling me to get out.
2. The Power of Touching In Alzheimer’s Care
I had my mother strategically position in a chair that I could walk by many times a day.
Each time I walked by I smiled and waited for her to smile back at me. I can say from experience that most Alzheimer’s patients have a very sweet smile.
When I would get next to her I would stick out my hand. She would reach out and put her hand on my. An automatic nonverbal response.
Once our hands where attached I would slide my hand down and attached the pads on my fingers to her fingers. Believe it or not this is a very powerful form of communication. You don’t have to limit this technique to an Alzheimer’s patient.
Finger pad to finger pad, what a wonderful to communicate without saying a word. This type of communication creates connectedness. Ever feel disconnected from your loved one living with dementia? This is one powerful way to reconnection.
This kind of connectedness sends a very clear message to the brain. A message of reassurance, compassion and love. Don’t believe me? You will just have to try this for a while and then look and your loved one’s face. See if they start acting nicer and more cooperative.
I did this at least ten times every day.
We were finally on the path to Joy.
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