Nonverbal Communication Strategies Are Useful for Seniors with Dementia

Senior woman spending quality time with her daughter

Seniors with dementia can benefit from nonverbal communication strategies.

Conversations with a cherished older adult who is struggling with dementia, particularly in the middle and later stages, is often frustrating – both for you personally and also for your loved one. Brain changes affect the ability to hear, process, and respond effectively to conversations, and it’s up to us to put into practice new techniques for communicating to more successfully connect with a senior loved one with dementia.

The good thing is, it’s easier than it might appear. We already use many nonverbal communications strategies each day:

  • Touch
  • Posture and body movement
  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Gestures
  • Personal space

Test these techniques to incorporate increased nonverbal communication into your interactions with a loved one:

  • Offer reassurance through gentle touch. If a senior loved one is comfortable with touch, hold and pat the senior’s hand, massage the senior’s back, place an arm around his/her shoulders, and give warm hugs.
  • Look your loved one in the eye. Eye contact conveys interest in the person, even when no words are said aloud.
  • Respect personal boundaries. Steer clear of overwhelming the person by permitting plenty of personal space, and making certain you’re at the very same level as the person, never towering over him or her. Your face should always be at eye level with the other person.
  • Always keep a calm, patient, and confident demeanor. Curb any anger, frustration or impatience, and concentrate on maintaining a relaxed and pleasant expression on your face when together with a loved one. If this turns out to be daunting based on challenging behaviors, walk away briefly and practice deep breathing or some other relaxation techniques, for example:
    • Square breathing: Use your finger to trace the shape of a square in front of you. When tracing the first side, breathe in deeply for a count of three; for the next side, hold your breath for one second; for the third side, breathe out for a count of three; and for the fourth side, hold your breath for one second. Do it again when necessary.
    • Soothing phrase repetition: A few examples to help you get started: This will pass, and everything is ok. I’m able to manage this. I am secure and well.
    • Distracted thinking: Practice concentrated refocusing. Try reciting the alphabet backwards, listing as many state capitals that you can, or singing the lyrics to a well-liked song.

Find more creative strategies to successful Alzheimer’s and dementia care by getting in touch with CareWorks Health Services. Our caregivers are specially trained in the most up-to-date Alzheimer’s care techniques, and we’re always available to help a loved one with dementia remain safe and calm, and to enjoy life to his or her greatest possible potential. Contact us at (949) 859-4700 any time for assistance.