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Tips help ease discomfort with memory loss

Tuesday, July 1 2014 1:02 AM

Have you ever felt uncomfortable or at a loss when visiting a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia? Have you avoided or dreaded visits because a previous experience was uncomfortable? If so, you’re certainly not alone.

No matter how deeply we care about friends or family, Alzheimer’s disease can make us uncomfortable—especially when we don’t fully understand the disease or how we should react to the challenges Alzheimer’s can present.

Seeing your loved one struggle with memory loss, confusion, or the ability to understand situations and surroundings is difficult for a number of reasons. As long-established roles and relationships (parent-child, spouse-spouse, friend-friend etc.) change, that difficulty can sometimes increase to the point of discomfort. Fortunately, there are strategies for making each visit meaningful in spite of these challenges.

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, it’s important to assume the role of leading and carrying more of the conversation. For some, this is a challenge, but there are a number of communication strategies you can use to enhance your visit and ease discomfort.

Here are a few communication tips to help improve visits with Alzheimer’s patients:

  • Speak slowly while facing the person
  • Allow additional time for the person to respond
  • Try other forms of communication (such as singing)
  • If you can’t understand what the person is telling you, try to respond to the emotional context of the conversation
  • Be aware that periods of silence during the visit are OK
  • Share and discuss memories of the past
  • Follow the person’s lead during discussions and allow the conversation to occur on its own rather than expecting it to happen within a specific time frame

Through effective communication strategies, we can make the most of visits with those we care about, while still offering the generous gifts of our time, presence and love.

By Michelle Kutner, CSW, MSW, CTRS
Specialty Service Consultant

Source: www.good-sam.com 

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