There are many struggles that come with a diagnosis of dementia, but one of the most painful can be the struggle to communicate with your loved one. As their brain deteriorates, your loved one will experience a reduced ability to do all kinds of things, including the ability to communicate effectively. This can be frustrating for you as well, so it’s important to keep these strategies in mind.
- Patience is Key
We know how hard it is to sit quietly while a loved one struggles to find the right words to express themselves, but it’s important to resist the urge to interrupt and try to guess what they’re saying because that will only increase their frustration. Instead, wait patiently until they’ve finished before you try to respond.
If you get frustrated, they’ll get frustrated, so you need to remain calm at all times. Keep your voice low and level, and while your body language should convey that you’re engaged in the conversation, it should never communicate frustration because your loved one will pick up on that and it will only increase their frustration.
- Become an Interpreter
While it’s important not to interrupt your loved one when they’re struggling to find the right words to express themselves, sometimes they’ll ask for help or just give up trying to speak, in which case you can offer a guess based on context. Even if you guess wrong, you might be close enough to the mark to lead them to the right words (or for them to lead you to the right words). But if you’re way off base, it might just frustrate them further, so it’s important to know when to back off and change the subject.
- Use Gestures
As the disease progresses, communicating visually will become easier than communicating with words. For example, instead of using words to ask your loved one if they want a certain object, you can point to it and watch their reaction. If they nod and reach for it, it’s a good indication that they want it.
- Show Respect
Although our golden years are sometimes referred to as a “second childhood”, your loved one is not a child and will not appreciate being treated like one. Avoid using babytalk or demeaning phrases, such as “good girl”. And never talk about them as if they’re not there because, even if they have trouble communicating, they can hear you, and they know when they’re being ignored or overlooked.
When you are communicating with them, show that you’re engaged by maintaining eye contact. You can also hold their hand, which can help keep both of you calm when they’re struggling to find the right words to express themselves.
You can check out our blog for more tips on how to care for a loved one with dementia. If you’re looking for an assisted living community that offers memory care services, we recently opened our own Memory Care Wing and we would love to answer any questions you might have regarding memory care.
It’s never an easy conversation. You don’t want to think about the possibility your parents could be left helpless, and they often don’t want to think about it either. But avoiding the possibility doesn’t do any good when an accident or sudden illness could strike at any time, leaving them incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions. It’s a painful thought to consider, but by taking the time now to think about your options and discuss what your parents would want if the worst were to happen, you can save everyone a significant amount of pain and agony later on down the road.
Since bringing up the topic with your parents can be easier said than done, we have some tips to help you get started.
Make It About Life
It’s easy to think of these conversations as being about death, but if you switch it around, it can be easier for everyone to manage. Instead of asking your parents how they want to die, ask them under what conditions they would no longer want to live. Make the conversation about respecting life, rather than focusing on death.
Make It Personal
It can be hard for people to think about these things in general terms, which is why using an example can be so powerful. If you know someone who recently had to make tough decisions for their parents, either personally or from a news story, use that as an example of something that could happen to your parents. Talking about a specific example can help clarify things for both you and your parents, so take advantage of any real-life examples of which you’ve been made aware.
Timing Is Everything
There are some conversations that are never easy to get through, but sometimes the simple matter of timing it right can make all the difference. In the section above, we mentioned the importance of using real-world examples, so if you and your parents have recently heard about someone you know, or someone in the news who went through a situation that required a living will and a power of attorney, that could be a good time to say, “By the way, what would you want us to do if you were in that situation?” Or “Who’s your power of attorney?”
If your parents are going through a life transition, such as retiring and/or downsizing, that could also be a good time to bring it up because it’s probably already on their minds.
Get It in Writing
The good news is that having the discussion is the hardest part, but you’re not done yet. If you don’t get it in writing, then if something does happen to leave them incapacitated, you’ll still have a legal nightmare on your hands. Even if everyone is involved in the conversation, without putting it down in writing, you’re relying on memory and everyone’s memories of the conversation are bound to be a little different. The only way you can be sure you’re abiding by your parents’ wishes is to get them in writing.
Don’t forget that assisted living should also be a part of the conversation. Reach out now if you have any questions about how we help our clients live their best lives in their golden years. We’re here to put your mind at ease.
Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family. We are also excited to open our Memory Care Neighborhood in the Spring of 2020.
CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.