Dementia and Communication Strategies: Nonverbal Techniques

by JFS Care
Senior woman spending quality time with her daughter
Communicating with someone with dementia using nonverbal techniques is easier than you might think.

It can be frustrating dealing with dementia, and communication strategies may not always be successful, particularly in the middle and later stages of the disease. Brain changes impact the ability to hear, process, and respond effectively to conversations, and it’s up to us, as caregivers to implement new approaches to communicating to more successfully connect with a senior loved one with dementia. JFS Care, the experts in senior care in Santa Monica and surrounding areas, have some nonverbal communication techniques that may prove more successful.

What’s encouraging is, it is less complicated than it might seem. We already communicate nonverbally in many ways:

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

Take a look at these methods to include increased nonverbal communication in your interactions with a loved one:

  • Offer reassurance through gentle touch. If your family member is comfortable with touch, hold and pat the senior’s hand, rub the senior’s back, place an arm around his or her shoulders, and give warm hugs.
  • Look the person in the eye. Eye contact expresses interest in the person, even when no words are said aloud.
  • Recognize personal boundaries. Steer clear of overwhelming your loved one by allowing ample personal space, and making certain you’re at the same level as the individual, never towering over her or him. Your face should be at eye level with the older adult.
  • Always keep a calm, patient, and positive attitude. Suppress any anger, aggravation or impatience, and focus on keeping a relaxed and pleasant expression on your face when together with your senior loved one. If this proves to be impossible based on challenging behaviors, step away briefly and practice deep breathing or other relaxation techniques; for example:
    • Square breathing: Use your finger to draw the shape of a square in front of you. When tracing the very first side, breathe in deeply for a count of three; for the following 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. Repeat as necessary.
    • Soothing phrase repetition: A few suggestions to get you started: This will pass, and things are ok. I’m able to manage this. I am safe and well.
    • Distracted thinking: Practice concentrated refocusing. Try saying the alphabet backwards, stating as many state capitals as possible, or singing the words to a favorite song.

Learn more creative approaches to successful Alzheimer’s care by getting in touch with JFS Care, experts in senior care in Santa Monica and surrounding areas. Our caretakers are specially trained in the most current Alzheimer’s care techniques, and we’re always available to help a loved one with dementia to remain safe and calm, and to enjoy life to his/her fullest possible potential. Contact us online or call (213) 383-2273 any time for assistance.