America’s population is aging. The number of Americans ages 65-and-older will more than double from 46 million today to more than 98 million by 2060. By then, one in every four Americans will be in the 65-and-older age group. As Christians we have to know how to respond to this growing population, especially those with Dementia.
Sr. Mary Kay Kinberger, MSC has written an article for Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing Home News Letter in Opelousas, Louisiana entitled, “Communication with Persons with Dementia.” The following is a shortened version.
“Dementia is a progressive illness that, over time, will affect a person’s ability to remember and understand basic everyday facts, such as names, dates and places. It will gradually affect the way a person communicates and their ability to present rational ideas.
“Some changes might include: difficulty in finding a word; the use of speech that does not make sense; an inability to understand what is being said; writing and reading skills that have deteriorated; loss of the normal conversational skills such as an increasing tendency to interrupt, ignore a speaker or fail to respond when spoken to; difficulty in expressing emotions appropriately.
“While losing the ability to communicate can be frustrating and very difficult for people with Dementia, positive communication can help the person maintain their dignity and self-esteem. A caring attitude, use of appropriate body language and maintaining the right environment are all very important aspects of quality communication.
“Meaningful communication with persons with Dementia requires patience, understanding and good listening skills. People with Dementia retain their feelings and emotions although they may not understand what we are saying. To assist them, be flexible and allow plenty of time for a response. When appropriate, use touch to keep the persons attention and to express feelings of warmth and affection. Remember, communication is made up of three parts:
“55% is body language that we give out by our facial expression, posture and gestures;
“38% is the tone and pitch of our voice;
“7% are the actual words we use. The strategies listed below may inspire better communications.
“1. Avoid talking with the person in noisy areas that can overstimulate and confuse the person.
“2. Always approach from the front; make eye contact and identify yourself.
“3. Remain in the direct line of vision of the person. Touch an arm or shoulder gently to get or keep attention. Sustain eye contact by sitting at eye level with the person.
“4. Speak slowly and clearly using short simple sentences. Do not expect a quick response.
“5. Give the person time to process the information. Sometimes it takes 20 seconds for a person with Dementia to process a simple statement.
“6. If repeating statements is necessary, use the same words. Do not rephrase sentences or use different words. Do not give too much information in one sentence.
“7. The tone of voice and facial expressions are more important than what we say. Use a soft tone of voice and a calm manner. Persons with Dementia are sensitive to body language as well as tone of voice even if they cannot understand what we are saying.
“8. Avoid questions that quiz the person on names of family members.
“9. Avoid arguing; if the person says something that is not correct, let it be.
“10. A person with Dementia may say one word and mean another. Try to guess at the correct meaning. Make sure you clarify the guess with the person to make sure it’s right.
“11. Smiling and humor are important for lightening the mood and easing communication.
“12. Expressing positive feelings is essential. Our friendship and support are most important!”
Posted on Fri, March 23, 2018
by The Lafourche Gazette