By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
In her informational program on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia last week at Heritage Woods of Charleston, speaker Casi Wagner provided some great advice for older adults and their families, friends and caregivers.
Casi is branch manager for ResCare HomeCare in Charleston, Illinois. She said much of the information she covered in her presentation came from Effingham Area Alzheimer’s Awareness, a volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization.
Heritage Woods of Charleston is one of the affordable assisted living communities that Gardant manages. The community operates through the Illinois Supportive Living program and serves adults 65 years of age older who need some help to maintain their independence.
One of the topics Casi covered during her program was 10 Tips for Success in communicating with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. The tips came from the Alzheimer’s Association.
Always approach individuals face-to-face, not from behind or the side, and make eye contact. It is vital that they actually see you and that their attention is on you. Use their name to get their attention.
If they are seated or shorter than you, bend down to get to their level. Do not stand or hover over them – it is intimidating and scary and will not yield good results.
This is especially important if you are going to touch them. They need to know what you are going to do so it doesn’t come across as grabbing them.
They will mirror back to you your attitude. Remember not to sound or be angry or agitated, or you will receive anger and agitation. They will be able to sense your attitude even if you try to hide it.
Speak at one half your normal speed when you talk to them. Take a breath between each sentence and give them time to process what you have said. Count silently to 15 to allow enough time for them to process what you said.
Speak in short sentences with only one idea at a time. Repeat sentences the same way a couple of times. Use names, not pronouns. For example, “John went to the store.” “John is getting groceries.” Say “here is your hat,” not “here it is.”
Let them answer it before you ask another question. You can ask who, what, when where, but not why. Why is too complicated.
Many times they will not be able to do so, and you are just frustrating them by pointing it out. You may stimulate anger that you do not want to deal with. When with other people, say “This is Mary, your neighbor,” not “Do you remember Mary?”
For example, say “let’s go here” rather than “don’t go there.” Avoid the words don’t, can’t, no and stop. Be inclusive, and don’t talk down to them as if they were a child. Respect the fact that they are an adult, and treat them as such.
It gets you nowhere. Instead, validate their feelings by saying, “I see that you are angry (sad, upset or confused).” It lets them know that they are not alone. Then, direct them into another thought. For example, “It sounds like you miss your wife (husband, father, son etc.) You love them very much, don’t you? Tell me about them.” Ask them about one of their favorite stories about that person.
The natural inclination is to want to approach the situation in a logical and rational way. If the individual with Alzheimer’s says that they are looking for their mother, the natural tendency is to want to remind them that Mom is no longer alive or that she died years ago. They may say they want to go home even when they are at home, said Casi. The best approach, she stressed, is to redirect rather than argue. Rather than trying to remind them that they already are at home, ask them to talk about their home. Tell them the weather is beautiful outside; let’s go outside.
“If they think they have a baby and want to carry around a baby doll, let them,” Casi added. Trying to remind them that they do not have a baby will most likely cause frustration and pain for them and for you.
Don’t give them too many options, Casi noted, and remember that some days they will be able to do more and remember more than on other days.
She also stressed the importance of caregivers accepting help. Being a caregiver for a loved one is hard.
June is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. For more information about Effingham Area Alzheimer’s Awareness, click here.
Information about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia is also available from the national Alzheimer’s Association. Click Here.
Gardant Management Solutions operates several memory care communities designed specifically to serve older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. The focus of the communities is to provide residents with opportunities for residents to maintain purpose and belonging in all seasons of dementia.