Communication in all its forms is at the centre of human interaction. Whether it be verbal, physical, emotional or otherwise, we send messages to others even if we don’t realize it. Ninety-three percent of how we communicate is non-verbal, including body language (55%), and para-verbal message, such as tone, pitch and volume (38%). Only seven percent of how we communicate is verbal.
This same premise applies for people who have dementia – regardless of their cognitive ability, they continue to communicate, albeit on a different level and in varying degrees as their condition changes.
The key to maintaining a connection with someone who has dementia is to learn to read their cues and the new “language” they are using. In turn, caregivers need to adjust how they communicate with their loved one in order to ease anxiety, frustration and misunderstandings for themselves and the other person. In essence, since the person with dementia cannot enter into the caregiver’s world, the caregiver must enter into theirs.
Communications strategies that can help include acknowledging the feelings of the person with dementia, allowing them to express distress or other strong emotions, and validating their worth as a person. As with any transition, this effort takes time, practice and patience. Feelings of frustration are normal during this process, and it helps to remember that taking a positive approach to the change can go a long way.
Employing these and other approaches can help to not only reduce stress and ease frustration but also strengthen the caregiving relationship. The Enhanced Caregiver Education series at McCormick Dementia Services provides practical tools and techniques to help caregivers who are looking for effective ways to help with day-to-day interactions and address such topics as communication, meaningful activity engagement, understanding behaviours and personal care.
This free program is offered throughout the year, and registration is open for individual sessions or the full series. Contact us to learn more.