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Care from the heart…

Originally published in the Apple valley Scoop Issue 16 (May 2010) by Nancy Blezy RN, Nurse Manager, Careforce Health Services

We do it every day. At times intentionally – at times unintentionally.

Our relationships can thrive or fail because of it. Communication and our ability or lack of ability will often dictate how successfully our needs are met. When we think of communication we usually think of language and dementia has a profound effect on language. Alzheimer’s Disease is a disease of the brain that causes damage and actual shrinkage of the brain. The ability to move ideas into speech and to understand what someone else is saying lessens as the disease progresses. These deficits represent one of the greatest challenges for caregivers as well as the person suffering with the disease.

One of my biggest peeves is when someone with known dementia is repeatedly questioned, “Do you know who I am?”, “What’s my name?”. How many of us like our shortfalls to be publicly noted. Not me – and not you. Try, “Hi, John. It’s Nancy from church and I am so glad to see you today.” vs “Hi, John. Do you remember me?”. Set the stage for a meaningful interaction.

Set the stage for success – remove distractions if possible. Use hearing aids/glasses. Give one message at a time to limit confusion. Communicate at eye level. Show and talk.

Words may be substituted or missing; pronouns may be used incorrectly leading to frustration; the meaning of euphemisms and innuendos will be missed.

Be patient. Be encouraging. Be supportive of the effort. Speak to the emotion and the heart of what the person with dementia is trying to communicate. Fear, concern, joy, sadness, happiness, loneliness and anger – these are things we can all relate to. Much of our communication is non-verbal. Use this as a tool; use smiles to encourage, gentle tones to reassure, and respectful touch to affirm that the person with dementia has value as a person and value to you.

Who knows, one day that could be you. Feel free to call me if you have any questions or comments. I can be reached at Careforce Health Services – 365-3155 or by email at nancy@careforce.ca.