Apr 20, 2016

Alzheimer's Nonverbal Communication and Patience

I learned that nonverbal communication and patience often work best when dealing with someone living with Alzheimer's disease.


I learned that nonverbal communication and patience often work best when dealing with  someone living with Alzheimer's disease.

I was watching a short video made by a television station about an Alzheimer's caregiver and her mother. They shot the video in the home of the family.

Basically, the video showed the older daughter caring for her mother who had Alzheimer's disease.

Topic Search - Alzheimer's Caregiver


By Bob DeMarco

The video was very well done.

I found myself feeling an entire range of emotions as I watched. I was very happy to see that the daughter was very caring. I was also saddened as I watched and saw the feelings of sadness and frustration on the face of the daughter from time to time.

Alzheimer's does that. It brings out feelings and emotions sometimes in waves.

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There was one scene where the daughter wanted the mother to get up, out of her chair, and go to bed. The mother shook her head no, and when prompted to get up said NO.

A typical response in Alzheimer's World.


The daughter then reached down and tried to grab her mother by the arm and pull her up. This was not in any mean, or rough way. The mother recoiled and pulled her arm away.

This reminded me that sudden movements really don't work well with Alzheimer's patients. 


In situations like this one, the patient is more likely to dig in their heals and be more recalcitrant.

You don't want to bring out the "hardheadedness" in someone with Alzheimer's. This leads to the hard NO. The NO -- where the Alzheimer's patients shows you "who is the boss".

I learned that nonverbal communication often works best with someone who has Alzheimer's disease.

Topic Search - The Importance of Nonverbal Communication in Dementia Care


Here is the way I approached similar situations. Instead of asking my mother to get up with words, I would prompt her to get up. Blah Blah Blah doesn't work.

What does work is nonverbal communication. It all starts by catching your loved one's attention with a smile.

Next I would hold out my hand with the palm up, palm facing my mother so she could see it. I am offering my mother my hand, no words are needed. Alzheimer's patients often understand nonverbal communication better than they understand words.

If she doesn't look at my palm right away, I wiggle it a little bit until she looks. No words. Just the palm.

An open palm signifies a few things non-verbally. The obvious -- take my hand. The less obvious but powerful nonverbal communication -- I am receptive to you, I like you.

When a person is talking to you and they open their palms out toward you -- they like you, they are receptive to you.

Point counterpoint. When a person turns their palms out they like you. Lets compare this to when a person folds their arms across their chest, what does this tell you?

It tells you they are not receptive to what you are saying, they don't like what you are saying, and it is making them uptight. The exact opposite of the offering of the palm, the crossed arms mean they are "closing you off".

Sometimes when using this technique - the open palm - you have to be patient.

In situations like this, time takes on a different dimension. So standing there for 20 seconds holding your palm out might seem like an eternity. If you are not aware of this "time" it is easy to get stressed or to start reacting with your mouth. Silence often causes people to start talking.

Custom Search - How to Get An Alzheimer's Patient to Cooperate


Persons with Alzheimer's react to stimuli slowly, in this case the offering of the palm.

Alzheimer's World is a slow motion world. And when dealing with the person living with dementia you must deal with them on their terms. I think most of you already realize this.

Should it be a surprise that a person with Alzheimer's moves and reacts slowly? I don't think so.

Should you allow this slow motion world, Alzheimer's World, to turn you "Topsy Turvy" all the time? I don't think so. Don't let that happen. Be patient, learn patience. You get to choose. Patience or constant stress.

You can't hurry in Alzheimer's World. You have to slow down and learn to take a few deep breaths.

Like I said, Alzheimer's World is a slow motion world and this requires you, the Alzheimer's caregiver, to learn to operate at a new speed and to learn a new kind of patience.

It isn't easy. You have to practice -- over and over. Or, you can continue doing the same thing that isn't working over and over.


If so, go ahead - bang your head against the wall.


You can't hurry love by the way. So when you are practicing patience and the offering of the palm just think of it as another way of saying -- I love you.

You always get to choose. Choose stress, frustration, anger, -- or -- feeling good about yourself when you accomplish your mission.

Your choice.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 5,100 articles, Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

You are reading original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room