2. Communication

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Conversational Skills

Getting to know clients and what makes the person happy helps to create a person-centered approach to caregiving.  Familiarity with topics the person enjoys may help to calm or distract the person if he/she is resisting or refusing care at some point.

Helpful Topics:

  • Family, friends
  • Favorite foods
  • Television shows
  • Movies
  • Books
  • Music
  • The past – childhood, school, jobs, pets

To communicate well, you need these skills:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Listening
  • Ask good questions.
  • Observe non-verbal communication. There are sometimes movements, gestures, facial expressions and even shifts in the client’s body that indicate something may be going on that they are not telling you.
  • Speak openly and honestly to solve problems.
  • Allow the client to express needs, wants or opinions without getting irritated, frustrated or angry.
  • Speak to the other person with respect.
  • Be respectful of the client’s race, ethnicity, religion, country of origin.
  • Participate in activities like playing cards and games.

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Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, an acquired brain injury and other conditions may make communication more difficult. Don’t use too many words or long explanations because this may be confusing. Don’t give too many instructions or choices at once. You may not understand what the client is saying because they may be talking about things that happened in the past.  Some clients may understand non-verbal gesturing better (like hand signals) if they are confused or hard of hearing.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia - Communication

Communication requires patience and understanding. Alzheimer’s disease affects the whole brain. When the client is in the early stage, the ability to talk and be understood may only be slightly affected. The client may have a hard time thinking of words. Over time, difficulty thinking of the correct words will worsen as well as being able to understand what others are saying.

Techniques to help:

  • Tell the person or show the person you’re trying your best to understand.
  • Reassure the person and tell the person it is okay.
  • Encourage the person to keep talking and don’t interrupt.
  • Try to figure out what they’re trying to tell you by associating the words with their facial expression, the situation, their emotion and body language.
  • If nothing makes sense, ask the person’s family or other supporters. Ask the family or others who know the person about the best way to communicate.

Listening

Listening is not just hearing, but doing your best to understand what the person means. Ways to be a good listener:

  • Ask questions if you are not sure you understand.
  • Be patient and let the client finish speaking.
  • Give client your full attention.
  • Pay attention to the client’s body language, such as facial expressions, tone of voice or body posture.

There are sometimes movements, gestures, facial expressions and even shifts in the client’s body that indicate something may be going on that they are not telling you.

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Aphasia is a condition that affects the client’s ability to talk and communicate. It can affect the ability to speak, write and understand language, both verbal and written. Aphasia typically occurs after a stroke or a head injury.  If the client has difficulty speaking, let the client write out what he/she wants to say.  Some clients may use a communication board.