As dementia progresses, caregivers often begin to notice their loved ones frequently losing their train of thought, calling objects by the wrong name, repeating themselves, or simply speaking less and less. Deterioration in communication skills is a common consequence of memory loss, and you may start seeking innovative ways to connect with your loved one.
Person-centered dementia care, also known as the culture change model, offers a holistic approach to caregiving by focusing on what the individual can still do instead of their weaknesses. It recognizes that the relationship between the caregiver and the individual is key in providing the best quality of care. And, to continue to build this relationship, the words the caregiver chooses to use have a significant impact on the care and quality of life of the individual.
Dementia and Communication: Positivity in Language
By focusing on the strengths of the person living with dementia, you can find ways to communicate and connect much easier. Improving communication with someone with dementia is possible; focus on making eye contact, reading nonverbal cues and body language and be patient with your loved one. It’s important to choose your words wisely as well.
Studies have shown that using positive language while caring for someone with dementia can have a positive impact on their overall quality of life. First, it’s important to remember and understand that one of the common symptoms of dementia involves changes in personality or behavioral expressions. Therefore, when your loved one is acting out of character or being negative, these actions are due to the disease. Instead of reacting negatively yourself, stay calm, touch your loved one gently and offer soothing words to show you understand their frustration.
Positive language in dementia care should not be patronizing. Be sincere in your words, offering compliments and encouragement as much as possible.
It’s important to find ways to deflect difficult behavioral expressions in dementia communication. For example, if a loved one starts talking about how they want to “go home” when they are already home, instead of attempting to explain that they are at home, ask what they love most about their home. In other words, join them in their world. Use short sentences and ask simple yes or no questions. Allow ample time for a response. Instead of getting frustrated and upset, you’re recognizing that your loved one’s current reality may not be the same as your own.
Sometimes, the most positive way to communicate to a loved one with dementia is to offer a smile. Words might be completely unnecessary in some situations, and a smile or soft touch are all that is needed to calm the individual down. Studies show that those living with dementia are able to recognize nonverbal cues better than verbal cues because of the way the information is stored in the brain. Nonverbal messages were stored in the brain long before the hippocampus stopped working correctly.
Learn which method works most effectively for you and your loved one. This way, you can ensure you’re maintaining a strong relationship throughout all the stages of the disease.
American Senior Communities offers a person-centered, wellness-based model of dementia care within our Auguste’s Cottage program and our assisted living memory care apartments throughout our locations. Contact us today to request more information.