Sometimes words don’t seem like enough when trying to communicate with someone with dementia

Nonverbal communication is important, more so perhaps with someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia than with others. That goes for communication in both directions: from you and to you.

Body language can be responsible for up to 80% of all communication. It is very important therefore, when communicating with our loved ones to do more than just get the “right” words.

Facial expression and tone of voice are a big part of your message. Alzheimer’s patients are still sensitive to people around them and can be rather intuitive. They know when someone is not being sincere. Similarly, they can be very aware if they’re being excluded from something or being talked down to. People with Alzheimer’s can sometimes look into your eyes and seem to read your soul — like a “sixth sense.”

Be aware of the body language they may be sending your way. Bouncing up from a chair and pacing around could indicate, for example, that a visit to the restroom is warranted. Or it could be an indicator of some type of pain or discomfort. Always keep in mind that pain could be a part of the equation.

As for calming your loved one’s agitation or anxiety, sometimes less is more — as in talking less, or not at all. Sometimes you don’t need to say anything. Touch is an important part of the human condition, so resort to hugs and gentle touches on the hand, arm or shoulder often, if you can. A simple hug can dramatically change a person’s mood instantly.

Sometimes, an angry caregiver might not want to give a hug, but that’s the time when your loved one might need it most. Embrace her, and the opportunity to improve one’s existence. It might be stepping out of your comfort zone, but the results could amaze you. A hug can release tension immediately (in your loved one and you). A gentle massage or back run also can soothe the mood and have a relaxing effect.

For more information, download the Indispensable Alzheimer’s Resource Kit which can be obtained at no cost by clicking here