Communication Tips for Dementia: Try Nonverbal Techniques

Communication Tips for Dementia: Try Nonverbal Techniques

Sometimes, the most effective way to communicate with someone with dementia is nonverbally.

Conversations with a senior battling with all the challenges of Alzheimer’s, especially in the middle and later stages, is often discouraging – both for you and also for the person with Alzheimer’s. Brain changes impede the ability to listen, process, and respond appropriately to conversations, and it is up to us to employ innovative approaches to communicating to more effectively connect with an individual with dementia.

It’s quite a bit easier than it might appear, however. We already communicate nonverbally in many ways:

  • Touch
  • Posture and body movement
  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Gestures
  • Personal space

Consider these communication tips for dementia to include increased nonverbal communication into your interactions with a senior loved one:

  • Offer reassurance through gentle touch. If a senior loved one is comfortable with touch, hold and pat the senior’s hand, rub the senior’s back, put an arm around his/her shoulders, and offer affectionate hugs. 
  • Look your loved one in the eye. Eye contact communicates interest in the person, even when no words are spoken.
  • Recognize personal boundaries. Avoid overwhelming your loved one by permitting sufficient personal space, and making sure you’re at the same level as the individual, never towering over her or him. Your face should always be at eye level with the other person.
  • Maintain a peaceful, patient, and confident manner. Suppress any anger, aggravation or impatience, and concentrate on maintaining a relaxed and pleasant expression on your face when with a senior loved one. If this is impossible because of challenging behaviors, step away briefly and practice deep breathing or other relaxation techniques, for example:
    • Square breathing: Use your finger to trace the shape of a square in front of you. When drawing the first side, breathe in deeply for a count of three; for the next side, hold your breath for one second; for the third side, breathe out for a count of three; and for the fourth side, hold your breath for one second. Do it again when needed.
    • Calming phrase repetition: A few suggestions to help you get started: This will pass, and things are ok. I can manage this. I am secure and well. 
    • Distracted thinking: Practice concentrated refocusing. Try reciting the alphabet backwards, listing as many state capitals as you can, or singing the lyrics to a popular song.

Discover more innovative techniques to effective Alzheimer’s care by contacting Hired Hands Homecare, award-winning provider of elderly care in Pleasanton and nearby areas. Our care providers are specially trained in the most up-to-date Alzheimer’s care techniques, and we are always available to assist a senior with dementia to remain safe and calm, and to enjoy life to his or her fullest possible potential. Call us at (866) 940-4343 any time for assistance.

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