Communication can be so much more than just the spoken word. A smile, gesture, or touch can communicate a great deal, too. As dementia progresses in a senior, it may well become essential to test out alternate approaches to stay connected. If you are unsure where you can start, try these non-verbal communication ideas:
Body Positioning and Movement
Imagine seeing a businessperson dashing along the sidewalk, shuffling papers in a folder or clutching a mobile phone tightly in one hand while making exaggerated gestures using the other hand. You can easily guess that individual is under great pressure, overwhelmed, and feeling rushed.
Now picture someone swaying slowly back and forth while holding an infant in their arms. The emotions communicated are of comfort, peace, and calm.
Keep in mind your own body language during your interactions with a senior with Alzheimer’s, being careful not to project frustration, anger, or impatience. Slow, calm movements, with a comforting facial expression, will express to the person with dementia that everything is okay.
Eye contact lets others know that you’re paying attention to them, and therefore what they have to say to you is important. For someone with dementia, this should include approaching the person from the front so the person is aware of your presence, and keeping your face at their eye level. Avoid getting too close, which can be intimidating, but rather respect their personal space.
Patting or holding the senior’s hand, hugging them, shaking hands, or giving a gentle back rub are great ways to show love or support, but be sure these kinds of physical affection are welcomed. A senior with dementia who is not comfortable with being touched may become distressed and upset, or may feel as if they are condescending gestures. Watch out for any negative responses and quickly refrain from any further physical touch if noted.
Whether or not the senior understands the words you are saying, the tone of voice you use can often still be interpreted. Speak in a soothing tone at a volume that is neither too loud nor too soft. The individual might also enjoy hearing you sing familiar tunes, or even just humming. Again, focus on cues from the senior to make sure your voice isn’t provoking displeasure.
At Abby Senior Care, our experts in elder care in Denver and surrounding areas are specially trained in innovative methods of socializing and interacting with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
We’re always here to offer further tips and resources, along with the in-home respite care that provides you with the chance to step away for a break when you need one. Taking care of yourself is vital to taking proper care of a senior you love with dementia, and with Abby Senior Care on your side, both you and the senior you love will benefit.
Give us a call at 303-699-8840 any time to request more information about elder care in Denver or to schedule a free in-home assessment. Visit our Service Area page for a full list of the communities we serve.