Understanding Nonverbal Communication
Last updated: January 2023
When a person living with Alzheimer's progresses in their disease, it can be difficult to adjust to the changes in behavior and communication. Words may become more challenging for them to remember and understand. My mom frequently turns to nonverbal communication as an alternate form of expression.
As caregivers of loved ones living with dementia and Alzheimer's, understanding these nonverbal cues is key to providing the best possible care for our family members.
Types of nonverbal cues
People living with dementia or Alzheimer's may find it difficult to communicate through verbal means. Fortunately, nonverbal communication allows them to share their thoughts and feelings with those around them.
Facial expressions are a powerful tool in nonverbal communication. A glare, scowl, or frown could just as easily mean displeasure as a smile could express gratitude or joy.
In addition, body language, such as crossing arms over the chest or pacing back and forth, can give clues about an individual's emotions. Paying close attention to the volume and tone of a person's voice can also be beneficial in discerning their feelings and understanding their needs.
Learning these tools and deploying them effectively has helped me better connect with my mom and made it easier for them to express themselves on days when words seem far out of reach.
Responding to nonverbal cues effectively
Responding to nonverbal cues when interacting with a loved one living with Alzheimer's is not easy, but the rewards can be great. It's important to remember that adjusting your response based on the situation at hand can be incredibly helpful and beneficial.
For example, offering a gentle touch or comforting words may help ease an agitated loved one, while giving them space if needed will likely make them more comfortable.
Additionally, looking for patterns in your responses and reactions has proven successful in my experience. Hugging or speaking softly may become key elements of calming down an anxious loved one.
Having a routine in place can make everyone feel more secure and supported. By learning how best to respond when caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's, you can create a supportive environment filled with understanding and comfort.
An essential skill for all caregivers
As a caregiver of someone with dementia and Alzheimer's, recognizing and understanding nonverbal communication is paramount to making sure your loved one feels heard, understood, and comforted.
As dementia progresses, verbal communication can become incredibly difficult; however, with patience and practice, nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, body language, tones, and volumes - can be translated to provide the much-needed security for our family members during this trying time.
It's never too late to begin learning how to read these cues! The more we understand our loved ones through their nonverbal signals, the more comfortable they will feel, regardless of their ability (or inability) to communicate verbally.
So while it may take some patience and practice at first, learning how to properly recognize and answer these signs correctly is worth all the effort so that our beloved family members can best experience this journey.
Have you deciphered a loved one's nonverbal cues? How? How do they respond to you? Let us know in the comments below, or share your experience utilizing nonverbal cues!
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