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Memory Care FIVE PART EDUCATIONAL SERIES Journey through “They’re Right, You’re Wrong” When most people hear dementia or Alzheimer’s they automatically think memory loss. Although memory loss is the most widely recognized symptom and often the first noticeable one, it is only one part of the disease. Other common symptoms that develop and increase in severity over time are: • • • Problems with communication, both verbal and written Change in mood, personality and behavior Increased difficulty with executive functioning and reasoning (planning, judgment, organizing, etc.) Communication, both verbal and nonverbal, are the means by which we all interact with the world around us. As dementia gradually changes and shapes the way an individual communicates with others, it can become increasingly difficult for that individual and his or her family, friends and caregivers to connect. In turn, this ever-dwindling capacity to effectively communicate can lead to irritability, anxiety, emotional outbursts, wandering or even physically lashing out. This part of the disease can be especially scary and very difficult for families to reconcile. If you are the loved one or caregiver for someone with dementia, it’s important to understand that you cannot control the disease, you can only control your reaction to it. The sooner you make this realization the sooner you can let go of conventional expectations and adjust your communication and reactions to appropriately match the current abilities of your loved one. You will also quickly learn there’s no winning an argument with someone with dementia, we cannot reorient them to “our reality”, we must enter their reality. In other words, they’re right and you’re wrong, every time. If they’re right every time there’s nothing to disagree about, this helps stress levels remain low and spirits high. Stop correcting them. Another element of “them being right and you being wrong” hinges on when and how you choose to correct someone with dementia. No one likes to be told “no” or corrected, especially when he or she honestly doesn’t understand or see what is wrong with his or her actions. No matter how many times you correct someone with dementia, he or she is not going to change or miraculously regain the ability to reason and understand you’re just trying to help. Instead, learn to focus on a few key “magic” words that are most effective with your loved one; words that can help redirect and provide the desired outcome, but without causing conflict or shame. For example, if mom keeps asking where dad is, avoid traumatizing her each time you say “Mom, don’t you remember dad passed away five years ago?” Instead say something like, “Dad is still working; he’ll be home around 6. Let’s go have some coffee and relax before we start making supper.” • • • Communication is a two-way street. Various studies show that about 70-80% of our waking hours are spent engaged in some form of communication. This does not change simply because someone is diagnosed with dementia. However, what does need to change is how we adjust our own approach to communicating; we need to change because they no longer can. Of the 70-80% of our day spent communicating, about 9% is writing and 16% is reading, two of the first skills to deteriorate in those with dementia. The remaining time spent communicating is 30% speaking and 45% listening. The gradual loss in these abilities means someone with dementia must resort to the abilities they still retain, such as a single word like “no”, or eventually simple nonverbal responses. The moral of the story is that when you’re communicating with someone with dementia, you must better utilize your own listening skills and skills of deduction, to determine what he or she is really trying to tell you, when words fail them. Below are a few tips compiled by the memory care experts at Edgewood in Mandan, to help improve your listening and speaking skills when communicating with those affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia. Tips for more effective listening: • • • • Be comforting & reassuring - let the person know it’s okay if he/she is having difficulty expressing themselves. Be patient - give the person enough time to speak, it’s important. Try not to criticize or correct - listen as closely as you can in order to find meaning in what is being said. Look for the feelings behind the words - many times, it is how something is said rather than what is being said. His/her tone of voice and other actions may help you understand what he/she is really trying to say. Tips for more effective speaking: • Use short, simple sentences & 1-step instructions - long sentences can be confusing. Speak concisely and try to • • keep to the point. Give only one instruction at a time, then once completed, move onto the next. Use the person’s name - using the person’s name helps to get his/ her attention. Speak slowly and clearly - this will help the person better hear and understand you. Repeat information or questions - it takes longer for a person with Alzheimer’s disease to think about what you say or ask. Wait a moment, then repeat the sentence if needed. Turn a negative into a positive - rather than saying “Don’t do that now”, you might say “It’s a good time to…”. Your body language and gestures are important - try to maintain eye contact and use friendly facial expressions when you speak. You can also make use of pointing, gesturing and touching to get your point across. To learn more helpful tips and approaches to effective communication, please join Edgewood at their next event: Series Four: “Effective Communication” Join the Edgewood team Thursday, August 22 at 12 pm for part four of our five-part series*: The ways in which we choose to communicate & our reactions affect the individual with dementia. Learn appropriate & effective ways to communicate, both verbally & non-verbally Please RSVP to 663.5664 by August 20. * Join the series at any time, you do not have to attend all five parts. Edgewood Mandan Independent Living, Assisted Living & Memory Care 701.663.5664 | 2801 39th Ave SE, Mandan edgewoodhealthcare.com

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