Communicating with someone who has memory loss can sometimes times be the hardest part of the disease process. In fact, most caregivers find this become even more difficult during the holidays.
Families get together or come to visit hoping for a magical moment with Mom or Grandpa, only to leave without getting the gift of even a smile. At Azura Memory Care we train our caregivers in the art of communicating with our residents and as a thank you for all that you do, we would like to share our top five secrets in hopes that it helps to make your holiday a bit more merrier!
1. Get the person’s attention — use eye contact—securing eye contact helps to get the individual’s attention, helping their brain to more easily focus on you and what you are saying. A gentle touch can also accomplish this. Look directly at the person before you speak, identify yourself at the beginning of each interaction and maintain eye or touch contact at all times.
2. Speak clearly, in short, direct sentences – use one-step commands—use the KISS method (Keep It Simple and Short). Complex or abstract subjects will be difficult for a person with Alzheimer’s to follow. Talk about things that are seen, heard, touched or smelled. Be matter of fact, ask, “either/or” or as a last resort “yes” or “no” questions as much as possible.
3. Use your non-verbal skills – smile and mirror their body language, switching until you can draw them into a conversation or a better mood. Consider providing illustrations, drawings or photos to give additional cues to your conversation. At Azura we highly encourage families to use Life Story Books to help draw out magical moments for their loved one. Also avoid environmental distractions such as the TV or radio.
4. Praise and encourage — be affectionate with your loved one and realize that they need to be told that they are loved and important to you. They also need to be hugged. Families often fret about what to give their loved one, but in reality most would just love a simple hug, smile, trip down memory lane or to be told that they “did a good job.”
5. Be patient—if they or you become frustrated, take a break and try again later. They will sense when you are tired, stressed or in a hurry, and may mirror you, becoming upset or confused as a result. A quiet, soothing voice, gentle touch or a calm presence may reassure and calm someone who is confused or upset.
In truth none of these suggestions are secrets, they are basic ways to communicate. However, as caregivers if we take the time to focus on these five simple steps, we will see secret communication that our loved ones can still provide and that is a true gift!