May 27, 2016

Alzheimer's Communication the Sender Message Receiver Model

Alzheimer's caregivers tend to get angry, confused, and frustrated. We also tend to blame persons living with dementia for being angry, confused, and frustrated.

Alzheimer's caregivers often fail to understand the communication model | Alzheimer's Reading Room
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

In every communication interaction there is a sender, message and receiver. In this case a person living with dementia and a caregiver.

As caregivers, we tend to view ourselves only as senders of the message. We are always searching for ways to communication more effectively.

How often do we consider that the person living with dementia is also trying to send us messages?
Do we actively consider that we are on the receiving end -- that we are receivers of messages?

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An important aspect of effective communication is the importance of listening. Have you ever said to someone, you are not listening to me? If so, you know that - hearing words is not the same as listening to words.

I learned to listen to my mother by reversing the paradigm. In other words, I tried to look at the world from her point of view. I would ask myself, what would I want if the roles were reversed? How would I want someone to treat me if I was the one living with dementia?

I know one thing I would want. I would want the caregiver to make an extra effort to understand me. To go beyond themselves!

Once, I started listening to my mother, listening to both the words and the sound of her voice I changed. It also helped when I started paying close attention to the look on the face. This alone transformed me.

Once I started looking out of my mother's eyes I forgot that she had Alzheimer's. I started thinking of her as deeply forgetful. I can't tell you how many times I said to myself, uh oh, I'll have to lend her my brain.

I also started putting my head on my mother's head. Sometimes I said, don't worry if you can't remember, I'll lend you my brain. Most times she would giggle or smile.

No, she did not get mad at me for saying those words.

Start taking a good hard look at your loved one's face. All the time. Let me know how you feel, and what happens inside of you.

I also noticed as part of my own metamorphosis I had a new and different view of patients living with Alzheimer's disease.

You could start reminding yourself that people with Alzheimer's are people too. What do you think?

I finally came to an understanding. It was my communication and my behavior that determined the quality of our life each day.

In order to communicate effectively you need to become both a sender and a receiver. The receiver learns not only to listen, but to take cues from the nonverbal behavior of the person living with dementia.

My advice to my fellow Alzheimer's caregivers.

  • If you want to learn how to communicate more effectively you will need to become determined to do so. It takes a serious effort all the time, every day. Change is always difficult to accomplish.
  • There is a big difference between wanting to change, and needing to change. I want chocolate but I don't need it. Needing to accomplish something brings with it the passion to accomplish.
  • If you accomplish this mission, not only will you improve the quality of life of the person living with dementia, you will also be improving your own quality of life.

Each day, every day.

Ask yourself, what is s/he really saying? What does s/he really want?

Pretty soon you won't have to do that. You'll just know. People living with dementia are easy to understand. It is those of us living without dementia that make everything so complex. So hard to understand.

We the caregivers tend to get angry, confused, and frustrated. Of course, most of the time we blame the deeply forgetful for being angry, confused, and frustrated.

Let me ask you. How do you think you would react to a person that seemed angry at you, and always frustrated with you?

It is always best to try and understand how the other person might be feeling and what they are thinking.

This applies to everyone, even the deeply forgetful.


Caregiving is an Art, Listening is an Art

Alzheimer's Caregiver The Power of Purpose in Our Lives

Alzheimer's Caregiver Life Acceptance Recognition and Change

The Remarkable Memories of Deeply Forgetful Dementia Patients

How to Get Answers To Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, and speaker in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide.

The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009. Articles from our website have been read in 206 countries.

The Alzheimer's Reading Room operates for the benefit of society; and the Alzheimer's and dementia community.

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