Communicating Tips for Alzheimer’s

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice  (NAHC) is one of the two major industry groups that is focused on improving care for our elders, along with the National Private Duty Association (NPDA).  Good home care agencies usually belong to one or the other of these associations (a free tip to ask about if you are looking for home care 🙂 ).  But, if we belong to one, we pay attention to advice from the other.

This month, in Caring magazine, published by NAHC, has an excellent article written by Dr. Verna Benner Carson, called “Responding to Challenging Behaviors in Those with Alzheimer’s: Communication Matters”.

Not all of our home care clients at Support For Home have dementia, much less Alzheimer’s, but for those that do suffer from that disease, communication is, indeed, both challenging and crucial.

One of the major points that Dr. Carson makes is the importance of non-verbal communication when supporting folks with Alzheimer’s.  For all of us, in fact, non-verbal communication is the real backbone of our communication — both giving and receiving of messages.  As Dr. Carson points out, as the verbal skills of the Alzheimer’s sufferer diminish, the importance of non-verbal grows even more.

There are a number of very valuable suggestions in Dr. Carson’s article, and I do recommend reading it.  Some highlights, though, include:

  • “Always focus on the emotions behind the words” and the “facial expression of the person with AD”
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Do not argue or try to “reason” with the person with AD
  • Stay calm and peaceful – in voice and expression
  • Always approach the person with Alzheimer’s from the front
  • “Avoid brutal honesty
    • In our experience, this is crucial.  People try to “remind” folks with AD about items for which there is no memory left.  Telling someone who has Alzheimer’s that their spouse died 15 years ago is simply unintentionally cruel.

Again, I recommend reading the entire article, but keeping these points in mind will go a long way toward helping us be better caregivers for someone with Alzheimer’s (as well as some other forms of dementia).

Best wishes, Bert


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