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Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on August 26th, 2014

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Memory Loss: Tips and Techniques for Communicating With Your Aging Loved One

assisted living  |  memory loss  |  Aging & Caregiving

memory-lossAttempting to communicate with a loved one with memory loss can be challenging. However, there are ways to manage the situation while improving the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other memory issues.

Ultimately, the right communication strategies can yield positive results for both you and your aging loved one.

Set the Scene

The most productive interactions take place in quiet, comfortable environments. Minimize distractions by turning off televisions and radios. Begin the conversation by addressing your loved one by name, introducing yourself, and identifying your relationship. Speak in a calm and pleasant manner to promote a positive mood.

Use Body Language

It’s not always what you say but how you say it. When words fail, body language is a valuable communication tool. Touch, such as holding hands and hugging, and other nonverbal cues can help keep your loved one focused and responsive. Eye contact is also essential; so if your loved one is seated or laying down, put yourself at the same level for critical face-to-face connection.

Correspondingly, people with memory loss may also express themselves through body language, so be on the lookout for indications of distress, discomfort or anxiety.

Keep It Simple

People struggling with memory loss can easily become confused and frustrated. Speak slowly, use simple words, and repeat as necessary. Ask simple questions with “yes” or “no” answers, which are more productive than overwhelming open-ended questions. When possible, use visual cues to clarify your conversation.

If your loved one is attempting to engage in an activity, break the task into small steps to make it more manageable. Offer gentle reminders, encouragement as needed, and help along the way.

Listen With Your Heart

Communication involves listening with your ears, but it also involves listening with your heart. Be patient, positive and encouraging. If your parent becomes anxious or upset, switch the topic or suggest a change in scenery. Be careful not to ignore or belittle the feelings of your loved one: acknowledge his/or emotions and offer a reassuring response.

Memory Lane

While adults with memory loss may not remember recent events, many do recall the distant past. Rather than focusing on short-term memory questions, ask questions about people, places and experiences from earlier years. And remember, while memories may fail, emotions remain. Laughter is indeed the best medicine and humor offers a valuable way to connect.

Ultimately, memory loss can be equally hard on both the caregiver and their loved one, but communication strategies can help ensure fulfilling connections for both.

Key Takeaways

  • Promote an optimal setting for conversation by minimizing distractions and maintaining a calm, positive manner.
  • When words fail, body language offers valuable insights.
  • Simple language and “yes” or “no” questions work best.
  • Acknowledge your loved one’s emotions and offer reassurance.
  • A stroll down memory lane and/or the introduction of humor can be valuable communication techniques.

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.