Working with Memory Loss: Communication Tips for Caregivers
Although memory loss is a part of getting older, it can be difficult to communicate clearly with caregivers. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are commonplace in old age yet few can anticipate how difficult it can be to provide quality care. Seniors that suffer from cognitive decline also tend to present with other difficult behaviors, such irritability, agitation, or difficult communicating. When emotions and confusing make communicating hard, here are a few tips to help communicate and cope:
Keep It Simple
Each person experiences memory loss differently and the changes in daily life can be complicated. Simple, everyday tasks can become more difficult yet many seniors struggle to communicate their problems. Consider using simple vocabulary and straightforward instructions while offering small amounts of information at a time. Complicated details or explanations can be overwhelming so try to discuss things slowly and stick to yes or questions. Non-verbal communication, such as pointing or hand motions, can also be helpful. These tips are especially useful during later stages of memory loss. Make sure they are needed as they could make some feel inadequate or spoken down to.
As a loved one loses memories, some caregivers develop a sense of distance over time. Doing so can cause you to focus more on tasks and less on personal needs. Although this may seem easier emotionally, it may cause communication barriers. As you communicate, create a personal atmosphere by giving them your undivided attention. Avoid distractions or multiple topics and focus on their experiences and feelings. Staying connected to their overall physical and emotional well-being can embody a sense of support while helping you notice subtle changes.
Patience is a Virtue
Although this advice may seem obvious, patience is often easier to preach than practice. Patience is about being able to time your words and actions to meet both of your needs. When you find yourself frustrated or upset, taking a moment to breathe will help you communicate more accurately. Similarly, giving them plenty of time to gather their thoughts can build cognitive strength and enhance the relationship. Losing your memories is painful process that is frustrating for everyone involved. Ultimately, patience helps facilitate understanding.
Research and Education
While there are treatments and therapies that treat cognitive decline, there is no cure. Staying up-to-date on modern therapies and techniques is an important part of caretaking but it can be hard to stay current. Organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Association, provide the most current research updates as well as endless resources for patients and their caregivers. There are a number of creative therapies that can be used with traditional interventions to improve memory recall and overall quality of life.
Take Time for Yourself
You are the most valuable resource so stay positive and take care of yourself. Accepting that you’ll have an occasional bad day will stop you from beating yourself up. Frustration and sadness are normal but you can’t let them overwhelm you. Cognitive decline has been shown to worsen in negative environments so remember that your positivity can set the atmosphere. Taking time for self-care can ensure you have the emotional reserves to provide excellent care. There are many ways caregivers can take care of themselves so make sure to schedule time for relaxation and fun!
It is essential that seniors have a support system that encourages and advocates for them. Communicating is a critical part of successful caretaking. No matter how much memory-loss has progressed, there is a communication style that can work for you.
About the Author: Victoria K. Stickley is a copywriter, editor, and senior content manager based in the Dallas area. Her graduate education in counseling and research has helped immensely in her writing as well as the care she provides for her grandparents. She currently provides support and resources to senior care websites as she learns and experiences senior care first-hand.