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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Communication with Compassion

Through our experiences and training The Edith Ellen and Lady Bader Ambassadors have learnt that when living, or working with those with Dementia or Alzheimer’s it is important to be compassionate in your communication.

It is important to not do the following:
Don’t reason.
Don’t argue.
Don’t confront.
Don’t remind them they forget.
Don’t question recent memory.
And most importantly - Don’t take it personally.

It’s important to remember no one can control memory loss, only their reaction(s) to it.  By showing Compassion in your communication will significantly heighten quality of life for both you and your loved one.  Being consistent in your communication is so important even if it means

Giving short, one sentence explanations.
Allowing plenty of time for comprehension, then triple it.
Repeating instructions or sentences in exactly the same way.
Eliminating ‘but’ from your vocabulary; substitute ‘nevertheless.’
Avoiding insistence. Try again later.
Agreeing with them or distract them to a different subject or activity.
Accepting the blame when something’s wrong (even if it’s fantasy.)
Leaving the room, if necessary, to avoid confrontations.
Responding to the feelings rather than the words.
Being patient and cheerful and reassuring. Do go with the flow.
Demonstrating 100% forgiveness. Memory loss progresses daily.

They say normal things, and do normal things, for a memory impaired, dementia individual. If they were deliberately trying to exasperate you, they would have a different diagnosis. Forgive them...always. For example: they don’t hide things; they protect them in safe places...and then forget. Don’t take ‘stealing’ accusations personally.

Trying Open ended questions (“Where shall we go?” “What do you want to eat/wear/do?”) are surprisingly complex and create anxiety. Instead give them a simple choice between two items or direct their choice, “You look great in the red blouse.”

What we have learnt though is that dementia patients are scared all the time. Each patient reacts differently to fear. They may become passive, uncooperative, hostile, angry, agitated, verbally abusive, or physically combative. They may even do them all at different times, or alternate between them. Anxiety may compel them to shadow you (follow everywhere). Anxiety compels them to resist changes in routine, even pleasant ones. Your goal is to reduce anxiety whenever possible. Also, they can’t remember your reassurances. Keep saying them.
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