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Why Nonverbal Communication for Alzheimer’s Patients is Often Better Than Words

Senior woman spending quality time with her daughter

When communicating with a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it is helpful to use a range of nonverbal communication methods.

Connecting with a cherished older adult struggling with Alzheimer’s, especially in the middle and later stages, is often discouraging – both for you and also for your loved one. Brain changes affect the ability to listen, process, and respond appropriately to conversations, and it’s up to us to put into action new methods of communicating to more effectively interact with a senior loved one with dementia.

What’s promising is, it is easier than it may look. We already communicate nonverbally in a variety of ways:

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

Take a look at these techniques to include nonverbal communication in your interactions with a senior loved one:

  • Offer support through caring touch. If your family member is comfortable with touch, hold and pat the senior’s hand, rub the senior’s back, place an arm around his or her shoulders, and share warm hugs.
  • Look the person in the eye. Eye contact expresses interest in the senior, even when no words are spoken.
  • Recognize personal boundaries. Refrain from overwhelming the person by allowing adequate personal space, and making sure you are at the same level as the person, never towering over the senior. Your face should be at eye level.
  • Always keep a relaxed, patient and confident attitude. Quash any anger, annoyance or impatience, and focus on maintaining a peaceful and pleasant look on your face when communicating with your loved one. If this proves to be problematic because of challenging behaviors, step away briefly and practice deep breathing or other relaxation strategies, such as:
    • Square breathing: Use a finger to draw the shape of a square in front of you. When tracing 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 as necessary.
    • Relaxing phrase repetition: A couple of examples to get you started: This will pass, and everything is ok. I can handle this. I am secure and well.
    • Distracted thinking: Practice concentrated refocusing. Try saying the alphabet backwards, stating as many state capitals as you can, or singing the words to a popular song.

Learn more creative methods of effective Alzheimer’s care by getting in touch with Generations at Home. Our care providers are specially trained in the most current Alzheimer’s care techniques, and we’re always available to assist a family member with dementia to remain safe and calm, and to enjoy life to his/her greatest possible potential. Reach out to us at 727-940-3414 at any time for assistance.