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Reading Between the Lines with Dementia

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How to Interpret what a Senior with Dementia is Expressing

As elderly people begin to develop symptoms of dementia, including confusion and forgetfulness, both family members and dementia caregivers in West Bloomfield need to know how to interpret a senior’s communication efforts. A few simple tips can help to clarify meaning, aid in smooth communication and reduce the likelihood that your aging loved one will feel misunderstood or undervalued, which could result in emotional or physical outbursts.

1. Read body language
Those who experience difficulty in communicating with others due to dementia often consciously or unconsciously use body language to express needs. Look for signs the person is hungry, thirsty, tired, or needs to use the bathroom. Facial expressions and body movements can be helpful.

2. Use key words
Avoid long or complex sentences with someone who has dementia. Use short statements and build a vocabulary of a few keywords that are easily remembered and frequently used. Common phrases include questions about basic needs, like the following: Hungry? Tired? Bathroom? Medicine (or Pills)? Elderly people can learn to quickly identify and respond to a few common words or statements rather than sorting through convoluted sentences.

3. Follow a schedule
Help your loved one follow a similar schedule for daily activities. For example, if breakfast is usually served between eight and nine in the morning, a senior may display signs of agitation by eight-thirty or so if breakfast has not yet been eaten. Having assistance from a live-in caregiver in West Bloomfield is an excellent way to help set and maintain a senior’s daily schedule, especially if you have another household, job or kids to tend to.

4. Draw pictures
Sometimes the brain of someone with dementia begins to struggle with language forms. Some elders prefer to use drawings or flashcards with simple pictures to communicate with caregivers and family members. Cards with images of a toothbrush, a plate of food, a cup of coffee, and other recognizable items can be quickly referenced when words fail.

5. Encourage signing
If an elder has trouble coordinating his or her speech, ask close-ended questions requiring yes or no answers. You can also ask the person to raise one finger if hungry or two if thirsty. Shaking the head sideways for no or up and down for yes can reduce the need for language use.

Utilizing practices like these can help a loved one with dementia communicate basic needs to those providing care and support. Remember to be patient when an aging loved one is trying to communicate their needs and allow adequate time if they’re trying to form a response or try to encourage them to use an alternate method of communication.

If you’re interested in learning more about the experienced, professional and expertly trained dementia caregivers at Home Care Assistance, call 248.283.0835. We are proud to say that we are among the top providers of around-the-clock senior care in West Bloomfield, and for good reason.