When Words Are Lost Due to Dementia…?

Written by Natalie Reisen. Posted in Featured, Senior Living

Published on June 02, 2021 with No Comments

Sad senior woman sitting at a table after a quarrel with her husband

Communication is more than just talking and listening. As people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias progress in their journey and the ability to use words is lost, families need new ways to connect. 

 Our recent webinar” Effective Communication Strategies” presented by Julie Collins, program director for Greater Indiana Chapter, Alzheimer’s Association, reminded us that we are on the right track with our annual dementia training requirement for all staff.  As new staff are hired, they receive certified dementia training, and because our residents’ needs are priority, each year, regardless of the position we hold, we all refresh and renew our knowledge and skills. 

After all, we are like family to our residents and for those who have Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia, we are always learning the best ways to connect with them.

We also encourage our leadership team members to receive their nationally certified dementia practitioners’ certification which provides in-depth training and comprehensive knowledge in the area of dementia. 

Julie emphasized that people with dementia sense how others feel—they know if someone is tense or whether they are being patient. The better we understand their changes, the stages of dementia they go through, the better we maintain connection. Despite losing words to convey feelings, thoughts and feelings remain along with an all-important sense of self. 

The Alzheimer’s Association offers a wealth of information about the stages of dementia on its website, through programs and speakers, and a hotline maintained 24/7 for caregivers who need support and guidance. Following are brief overviews from the webinar for the two earliest stages most families encounter when first dealing with a loved one’s dementia.

Early stage affords the best opportunity to reassure someone who is beginning to lose the ability to find and use words. He or she will know that there will be a plan as you ask “How would you like to communicate? Would it help if we repeat, would it help if we spoke simply?”  The point is to find out their preferences before language is diminished. In this way there is reassurance that their dignity is respected.

Middle stage reminders include using short sentences, giving choices to direct questions such as what would you like in your sandwich, turkey or ham? It is important to call the person by name, being in front of him or her to keep eye contact and attention and remember not to talk down to a person. Do not expect the responses you are used to having; try not to lose patience—count to 3; and take a break before responding. Most importantly, always keep in mind you will need to control yourself, but not the other person. 

Do join the other person’s reality. “I want to go home” means I am afraid, I need reassurance. Hitting during bathing/showering or refusing means water or situation is too hot or too cold or I do not like having all my clothes off in front of you. Communication changes on the journey; you will need to learn to decode the verbal and behavioral messages delivered by someone with dementia. Fortunately, you can find out more from the local Alzheimer’s Association website https://www.alz.org>indiana.

Residences at Coffee Creek is committed to sharing the resources available for dementia patients and caregivers, right here in our communities. Visit our website at www.ResidencesSeniorLiving.com.

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About Natalie Reisen

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Natalie Reisen works as the Marketing Coordinator for Residences at Coffee Creek, located at 2300 Village Point in Chesterton serving as a key playing in supporting new residents and families making the transition to senior living. In addition, Natalie is a Certified Dementia Practitioner. A native of the region, Natalie was raised in Portage and she graduated with her Bachelors of Communication from Purdue University and her Masters of Business Administration from University of Saint Francis. For more information, contact her at 219-921-5200 or email Natalie directly at nreisen@residencesatcoffeecreek.com.

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