Greetings from Boulder Creek,
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. This is a great month to take time to think about the people that have lost their lives to Alzheimer’s, the ones that are battling the disease, the caregivers that have cared for loved ones, and everyone that has been affected by the disease. It is important the community starts to educate themselves about the disease and be more aware of it. The current statistics are one in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease, about one-third of people age 85 and older have Alzheimer’s disease, and the annual number of new cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to double by 2050.
This month ACT on Alzheimer’s is bringing National dementia speaker and author of “Creating Moments of Joy” Jolene Brackey to Marshall on Tuesday, November 17 starting at 8:45 a.m. The cost is $10.00 to attend and you need to register by Friday, November 6. Please register with Barb or Heather at the Adult Community Center by email at [email protected] or 507-537-6109. Checks payable to “One Voice for Seniors” and can be mailed to Barb Lipinski, 107 South 4th Street, Marshall, MN 56258.
Compassionate Communication: Tips for Dementia Caregivers
by Ava M. Stinnett
Communication mix-ups. They happen all the time, don’t they? Some of the more humorous mix-ups involve misheard song lyrics. Remember “Dancing Queen” by the group ABBA? The lyric “Feel the beat of the tambourine” has often been misheard as “Feel the beat of the tangerine.” Who isn’t amused when a toddler refers to strawberries as straw babies or pronounces grilled cheese as girl cheese? More recently, the autocorrect feature on cell phones has provided some noteworthy examples of miscommunication, as has the misuse of Internet acronyms. One woman, for example, texted various friends and family members to let them know about the passing of a beloved family member. She included the acronym LOL at the end of the text, thinking it meant “lots of love.” She was mortified when her son told her it actually stands for “laughing out loud.” In dementia-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, communication mix-ups may start slowly with difficulty finding the right word—a person’s name, for example—or incorrectly substituting one word for another. Persons living with Alzheimer’s may invent entirely new words to describe familiar objects or repeat a question over and over. As the disease progresses, communication becomes more difficult. They may struggle to organize words logically or may rely on gestures. They may not be able to understand what you are saying or only be able to grasp part of it. Writing and reading skills may also deteriorate.
Losing the ability to communicate can be one of the most frustrating and challenging problems faced by people with dementia-related diseases, their family members, and caregivers. It’s important to keep in mind that each person is unique and that difficulties in communication are very individual. Although they may not understand what is being said, feelings such as joy, anger, sadness, fear, and love remain. Communicating with compassion will allow them to maintain their dignity and self-esteem.
Consider these communication tips:
Keep it simple. Use short sentences and plain words, asking only one question at a time. Yes-no questions may work best.
Be patient and allow plenty of time for what you have said to be understood.
It may take longer for your loved one to process and respond. Don’t interrupt or finish their sentences. Just listen and avoid rushing and correcting.
Maintain eye contact and stay nearby so that they will know that you’re listening and trying to understand. Where appropriate, use touch to keep the person’s attention and to communicate feelings of warmth and affection.
Try to avoid distractions and a background of competing noises such as TV or radio.
Remain calm and talk in a gentle, straightforward manner. The tone of your voice can send a clearer message than what you actually say.
Don’t argue. Be aware that one’s reasoning and judgment will decline over time. If necessary, leave the room to avoid confrontation.
Communication may be challenging, especially as the disease progresses. Whether a family member or a caregiver, it’s critical to remember not to take it personally if the person with dementia becomes paranoid or accusatory. Patience, understanding, and 100 percent forgiveness are at the heart of compassionate communication.
Hope you have a great November and Thanksgiving,
Jamie Lanners, Housing Manager