Communicaton Tips for Caregivers

This was submitted by Dean from Red Deer who participated in a webinar on Jan 29.  The tip sheet is from Alz Society of Canada.  If you have not looked there lately - lots of good information.] I printed off the sheet from the Alz Society site and have put it in Bob's binder - that way all of his caregivers are reminded.  As am I! Slightly abbreviated below:

Communication Tips for Categivers

Reduce distractions:  Communicatiing is always easier if other things are not happening at the same time.  For example, if the TV or radio is distracting the person, turn it off.

Gain Attention: Face the person. Make eye contact to help focus their attention. Get close enough so they can see your facial expressiona and any gestures. As some people have problems recognizing family and friends, you can introduce yourself and remind them who you are.

Be aware of Tone and Body Language: Remain calm and still and speak in a relaxed tone of voice to put them at ease. Brusque or hurried movements as well as a sharp tone or raised voice may cause distress.

Be clear and concise: Talk slowly and clearly, using short and simple sentenses. Use closed-ended questions which are focused and answered using a simple Yes or NO instead of open ended questions which are time-consuming, may result in unnecessary information and may require more effort on the part of the person with Dementia.  Avoid phrases that can be interpreted literally such as "it's the cats pajamas" or "up to my eyeballs," which might be confusing.

Be respectful: Use the person's name to help them retain a sense of identity. Do not patronize of speak down to the person. Avoid childish talk or demeaning language. Avoid talking about the person as if they aren't present. Do not talk over the person. They may still understand what is being said even though they have lost the ability to form the words that are in their minds.

Listen carefully: What are they saying? Observe verbal and non-verbal communication. Try not to interupt even if you think you know what they are saying. If they are having difficulty finding the right words, offer a guess if they appear to want some help.

Be patient: They need more time to process information. Provide reassurance. If they are having trouble communicating, tell them that it is fine, encourage them to keep trying to put their thoughts into words. If they sense you are impatient or agitated, they may feel stressed or frustrated.

Encourage exchange: Make your communication a two-way process that engages the person with dementia. Involve them in the conversation. If you don't understand what is being said, avoid making assumptions. Check back with them to see if you have understood what they mean.

Show and Talk: Use actions as well as words. e.g., If it is time to go for a walk, point to the door, bring the person's coat. 

Encourage humour and laughter, respect sadness:  Humour brings you closer, releases tension, is good therapy. Laughing together over mistakes or misunderstandings can help. If the person is sad, encourage them to express their feelings. Show you understand.

Don't forget to account for hearing or vision problems: Make sure they are wearing a working hearing aid and/or clean classes.  Schedule regular checkups. 

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