Mar 5, 2012

Using Good Communication as An Effective Alzheimer's Caregiving Tool

Have you taken the time to consider that the way you communicate can have an impact on a person that is deeply forgetful? Has it ever occurred to you that the way you communicate can affect the quality of life of someone who is deeply forgetful?

By +Bob DeMarco 
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

Two Circles Trying to Intersect
One thing that has always fascinated me is the lack of time people spend thinking about and assessing their own communication skills. How much time have you spent thinking about the importance of communication in your life?

Aristotle described rhetoric as,

the art of discovering in any given situation all the available means of persuasion.

When it comes to the deeply forgetful I believe most would agree, they are very difficult to communicate with.

If you believe this then it only stands to reason that it is necessary to learn how to communicate effectively with someone living with dementia.

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I'll start by asking some simple question? How many times each day do you smile at the person you are caring for when you speak?

Do you lower your voice, or speak slower?

When a person who is deeply forgetful becomes difficult to deal with, do you meet that behavior with kindness? Are you gentle? Understanding? Or do you become exasperated, frustrated, or even angry?

Have you ever considered that Alzheimer's effects the ability to communicate?

Have you taken the time to consider that the way you communicate can have an impact on a person that is deeply forgetful? Has it ever occurred to you that the way you communicate can effect the quality of life of someone who is deeply forgetful?

Importantly, have you ever considered that the way you communicate with a person who is deeply forgetful will also have an impact on your quality of life?

Do you believe, or have you considered, that the manner and way in which you communicate can make a difference in your daily life at home?

If you are having a difficult time getting a person who is deeply forgetful to bathe, or eat, or even to go out of the house, have you tried to change your communication strategy in an effort to change their response?

Have you ever considered that the way you are speaking, your tone of voice, or that the words you are using could be confusing a person who is deeply forgetful? Or, that the combination of words you are using makes it difficult for them to decide, so they just say "NO".

Along the way on my journey with Alzheimer's I learned over and over that the words I used, the sound of my voice, the look on my face, often made a difference in the way my mother responded to me, or to situations.

The simplest example I can think of is the difficutly I had getting my mother to go into the pool for some exercise. She repeatedly said No, even though before she became deeply forgetful she had gone to the pool, and into the water, on most nice days for over 15 years.

I finally learned to speak in a kind and gentle voice. To remind her that it would be fun and good for her. And then, to lead her gently with my hand right into the pool.

Before you look at the this short video please understand my mother had told me NO, and she had refused for years to go into the pool. When you look at the video tell me how you think she looks walking in the water. Happy? Angry? How does she look?





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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,361 articles with more than 397,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

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