A Caregiver’s Guide to Communicating with Dementia Patients

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Freedom is important for anyone, but for seniors with dementia, maintaining autonomy is difficult. However, a skilled and confident caregiver can make a big difference in helping seniors with dementia navigate the changes a diagnosis brings while also preserving their autonomy as much as possible. In the United States there are over 43 million caregivers providing support for both adults and children. Of that number, over 15 million are caring for a senior loved one suffering from dementia. Although the following tips are by no means exhaustive, they’re a good start to learning the crucial elements of communicating as caregivers for dementia patients.

Stay Positive

Over 70% of communication is conveyed in tone and body language. If you’re in a caregiving situation, it’s important to remember that your mood and your posture convey a lot more than your words. In stressful situations, you may want to take the time you need to contain your emotional reactions and keep them from presenting in your body while you’re addressing your senior loved one.

Reduce Distractions

Before engaging in conversation with your senior loved one, it’s best to reduce external distractions. Turn off the television or radio and draw the curtains. Use the person’s name and ensure they’re looking at you; if they’re seated this may mean getting down on their level. Touch and nonverbal cues like this can help increase focus and smooth the communication process.

Ask Simple Questions

Another tip for speaking with your senior loved one is to keep your questions as simple as possible—ideally those that can be answered with yes or no. Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices. For example, it might be better to ask something like, “Do you want cereal or oatmeal for breakfast,” rather than “What do you want for breakfast?”

Listen

Listen as much with your face and body as you do with your ears. Be patient with your senior loved one’s responses to your question and don’t be afraid to offer words if they’re struggling for an answer. Though this is relevant in all cases of communication, for seniors with dementia, it’s especially necessary to listen between the lines for the emotions that are also being conveyed.

Break Down Tasks

Make tasks more manageable by breaking them down into a series of steps. Reassure your senior loved one that it’s perfectly fine to take their time and gently remind them of steps they tend to forget. It’s also best to use physical cues like gesturing to the fridge when asking your senior loved one to put eggs or milk away.

Distract and Redirect

When your senior loved one gets frustrated, changing the conversation or environment may help. Try to connect with them emotionally before suggesting a change. For example, “I see that you’re upset, why don’t we go for a walk?”

Take Care of Yourself Too

When caregivers don’t get the support that they need, burnout can occur. While it’s understandable that caregivers spend much of their time thinking about others, part of doing the job to the best of their ability needs to be taking care of themselves too. Burnout puts both you and your senior loved one at risk. Seek out support groups or friends and family when the going gets tough rather than ignoring your feelings. Caregiving eats up a lot of your life. In fact, statistics show that most caregivers spend over 20 hours a week providing support. Balancing a job, family, and activities on top of this is truly difficult.

When you love someone, you’ll do everything you can to support them. But, you don’t have to go it alone. At Life Settlement Advisors, we help seniors and their loved ones find the financial liquidity they need to seek the comfort they deserve. Did you know If your senior loved one still maintains a life insurance policy, they can sell all or a portion of their policy for an amount greater than the cash surrender value? This is known as a life settlement. Contact Life Settlement Advisors to learn more.

Case Study: Madelyn has been suffering from dementia for several years and her husband James can no longer leave Madelyn home alone. James has a life insurance policy he and Madelyn no longer want or need so James sold his life insurance policy for $105k and used the proceeds to hire in home care.

Leo LaGrotte
Life Settlement Advisors
llagrotte@lsa-llc.com
317-863-5936

Download our free resource, Causes of a Dementia Diagnosis and the Early Warning Signs You Should Know, to educate yourself to spot dementia before it arrives.

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