alt=Two adult hands hold a senior hand.

3 Ways to Connect with Your Nonverbal Loved One

One of the hardest things to deal with during my mom’s Alzheimer’s battle was when she became nonverbal in the last few months of her life. It was heartbreaking to think I would never hear her voice again. Although we had not been able to have a real conversation in years, she was still able to speak and we made the most of it. Once my mom stopped speaking, I was worried that I would no longer be able to connect with her. How could I engage her when she couldn’t speak?

Fortunately, I was able to find a few ways that allowed me to continue bonding with my mom. I learned that when you are no longer able to get through to your loved one’s mind, you have to focus on reaching their heart instead. When you can no longer rely on verbal communication, you have to rely on something deeper. I found the best way to forge this type of bond with your loved one is by appealing to their senses.

Connect through touch

I always enjoyed sitting with my mom and holding her hand. This took on a new meaning for me once she became nonverbal. I would sit and hold her hand for hours. Sometimes, I would give them a gentle squeeze. My mom would often turn her head toward me or open her eyes slightly when I did this. I also bought lavender hand lotion and began to massage my mom’s hands with it. One day while I was doing this, my mom said loudly, “I love you!” She hadn’t spoken in weeks. I am convinced I was able to reach her through the power of touch.

Connect through sound

Although my mom could no longer speak, she could still hear and she often reacted to sounds. My mom didn’t know my name or who I was, but she always knew my voice. There were many times when I would walk into her room and start talking and she would instantly perk up. She would turn her head in my direction without even opening her eyes. I would talk to her and read children’s books to her all the time. I felt as though she found peace and comfort in the sound of my voice.

I also played my mom’s favorite music for her. Many times, she would attempt to mouth the words of her favorite songs. Even when she was nonverbal and sleeping most of the time, I know she found comfort in her favorite music and me singing her favorite songs to her.

Connect through taste

Although people with Alzheimer’s often lose their sense of taste, I know my mom still had hers on some level because there were certain things she liked to eat and other things she didn’t. My mom loved sweets and we grew up eating ice cream every night. At the end of her life, she still enjoyed her ice cream. She would refuse to eat many other things, but when offered ice cream, she would eat every last bite. I found the act of feeding my mom to be very intimate. I felt as though I was able to connect and bond with her on another level when I fed her.

I understand it can be incredibly difficult to connect with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, especially if they are nonverbal, but it is still possible to reach them if you’re willing to try. It will never be the same as before they were sick. You won’t be able to connect in the same ways. But you might just find a deeper, more meaningful connection with them. One that doesn’t require the ability to speak. There’s nothing more beautiful than that.

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