Your role as caregiver, family member, or friend evolves with the progression of dementia. Even faced with challenging behaviors, you can still connect with your loved one and fill their day with meaningful activities. NursePartners is here to support you while your relationship evolves with the person living with dementia.
What is their behavior telling you?
We are constantly learning more about the brain’s ability to comprehend messages. This includes messages that are delivered through speech versus writing, in a crowded space versus a one-on-one situation, or even a familiar voice versus one of a stranger.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can cause people to act in unpredictable ways. Some individuals become anxious or aggressive while others repeat certain questions or gestures. Messages can be misinterpreted, surprising both the care recipient and caregiver. These types of reactions lead to misunderstanding, frustration, and tension.
It’s important to understand your loved one is not trying to be difficult and that these behaviors are also forms of communication.
Tips for managing behavioral changes
As carepartners, we need to adapt our delivery process throughout the progression of the disease. When we carry on a traditional conversation, we usually engage in a back and forth volley of information. When a person is diagnosed with dementia, it is important to realize that the three essential language skills for processing and sharing verbal messages need to be supported in different ways. These core linguistic skills are:
- Vocabulary (the words – the meaning of the content)
- Comprehension (receptive language – the ability to process the message)
- Speech production (expressive language – the ability to deliver the message)
Certain retained skills will assist you in conveying a message:
- Social chit-chat (the back and forth that can mask loss of comprehension, but covers in short simple conversations)
- Rhythm of speech (this includes awareness of the rhythm of a question that is seeking an answer, as well as ability to sustain rhythm or hear a rhythm that sounds familiar). Additionally it can and does signal changes in emotion – changes in frequency, intensity, or volume can indicate shifts in emotional state or discomfort.
- Rhythmic speech as is present in music, poetry, prayer, counting and even spelling.
What you can do:
There are important supportive phrases that can help when they are used in combination with pauses, inflections, visual cues, props, and partial reflective statement to confirm what was said or south:
- Seek more information by being nonspecific, try phrases such as “Tell me more about it.”
- Seek demonstration or visual representation with phrases such as “Could you show me how you would use it?” or“Show me how you’d do it.”
- Offer simplified options, by using two options at a time, or encouraging yes/no responses. Employ the use of object pronouns.
What can help:
Awareness, knowledge, skill and support for both parties.
Mary Stehle, licensed social worker and Senior Care Advisor says, “A person with Alzheimer’s who has lost the ability to understand and communicate through language is always looking for cues from us as to how to interpret the world. They are constantly reading our tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. When we are tired, stressed, and resentful, they pick up on this and it often impacts them negatively.” It’s important to remember that asking for help is not an act of selfishness, it’s providing better care for both you and your loved one.
We can be by their side when you can’t be. If your loved one need home care assistance or relief – Contact us today.
NursePartners is committed to providing uncompromised care to those living with a diagnosis of dementia. Our carepartners work with each family to enable safety, comfort and happiness through home-care services.