Last week we had the pleasure of attending a caregiver forum sponsored by Partners in Caring. One of the presenters was our very own Dawn DeStefani, who runs the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Center in Chula Vista. Dawn spoke about ways to best communicate with someone who has dementia. This week we’re going to share her tips, including today’s on how to help a loved one “talk” to you.
The key is to be an excellent listener. Consider employing the following practices:
Show patience. Your loved one can sense when you’re impatient or agitated, which just increases their own frustration. Schedule “cushions” to accommodate minor setbacks and that will help you be patient.
Provide reassurance. If your loved one is having trouble communicating, tell him it’s fine and encourage him to keep trying to put his thoughts into words.
Focus on the positive. Instead of correcting, focus on what your loved one has said and try to find meaning in her message. Smile and be positive…it really does help.
Agree instead of argue. This one is especially difficult because it goes against our norm. If they say the sky is green, do your best to let it go rather than argue it’s blue.
Offer alternatives. If your loved one can’t find the right words, offer a guess as long as he appears to want the help.
Concentrate on feelings. Even if you can’t comprehend the content of a message, often you can uncover the feelings behind it by observing tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and body language.
Reduce distractions. Try to talk in a quiet, calm place.