Communication and caregiving go hand-in-hand. When you talk to the person you are assisting, do they understand you? And do you understand them? When you care for a person who has hearing loss, it’s easy to mistake them for being uninterested or even cognitively slow. However, the reason they are not engaging may simply be because they can’t hear you. A few techniques can help care go smoothly:
Stand, sit, or squat so you are at eye level with the person.
Keep your face in the light so that your lips and expressions can be seen.
Use simple sentences that contain one action or request, such as “Come with me” instead of “It’s time to eat, so grab your sweater and let’s walk to the dining room.”
Use body language like nodding, pointing, and facial expressions.
Combine requests with related gestures like “Would you like to eat?” while pointing to your mouth and rubbing your stomach. Hand gestures have become evermore helpful these days, since face masks are a physical barrier that can make conversation difficult for people who are hard of hearing.
Speak in a normal tone, facing the person, and making eye contact. Do not shout or use baby talk.
Check the person’s hearing aid to ensure it’s turned on and has a functioning battery.
Communication and Dementia
Learning how to communicate effectively with someone who has a dementia related disease is very important. People living with dementia (particularly in late stage or, if earlier, on a bad day) are mentally stuck in their own version of reality. They may see, hear, and believe things that you know to be untrue, but you mustn’t try to convince them otherwise. If you argue, you’re setting yourself up for frustration, as your insistence will only worsen the person’s agitation and stress. If this happens repeatedly, the person will start to associate you with negative emotions, and your relationship will struggle.
Reduce background noise. Loud noise like that coming from a television or children in the home can be overwhelming to a person with dementia.
They may feel stressed and anxious. Playing soft music can help.
Establish eye contact. If the person is standing, stand; if the person is sitting, sit or squat down to their eye level.
Address the person by name and remind him or her of your name and that you are their caregiver.
Explain what you are going to do before you do it using one-step commands.
Point to the object you are discussing. For example, say, “Do you want your slippers?” not “Do you want these?”
Avoid expressions that may cause confusion. Don’t say, “Jump into bed.” Instead, say, “Get into bed.”
Make the subject clear before you ask questions. For example, say, “Betty, let’s talk about our trip to the doctor’s office.” When you change the subject, say so—for example, “Betty, now let’s talk about dinner.”
Take a break if you are met with resistance. Tell the person you have a task to take care of in another room and that you’ll discuss the issue in a little while. This will give them time to cool down and you a chance to take some deep breaths to get centered again. When you try again, use a different approach from what you used before.
Take time to ask the person in your care how they are doing. Sometimes combative behavior is a symptom of a deeper issue. For example, a person may refuse to be bathed because they are feeling modest. Or they may refuse to eat in response to a sense of loss of control. Giving the person choices can make them more likely to cooperate.
Lastly, be patient. Your schedule may be overwhelming, but the person in your care is on their own schedule. Allow more time than usual for simple tasks. Too many activities at once can provoke a reaction because the person feels overwhelmed.