Communicating Made Easier…

Being a caregiver can be challenging. The difficulty is compounded when your loved one has limited communication ability that may be impaired by a stroke, medication, dementia, or other cause. When the person cannot express needs or emotions readily, anxieties may increase, heightening tensions.

Communication is a vital human need so be prepared to go the extra mile for a loved one whose speech may be incapacitated. Doing so will enhance his or her quality of life, and thus make you feel better as well.

Learn to interpret the person’s facial expressions and physical gestures. Body language is key to understanding someones state of mind or comfort level. Grimacing, head shaking, and hand clenching are common symptoms of discomfort. If you notice this ask your medical provider for more information about physical manifestations of discomfort. You also can check with a local community aging office or senior support center, as well as a medical association like that for stroke victims.

Become a good listener. Ask “yes” and “no” questions that the person can answer with a nod or shake of the head. Be patient as difficult words are stuttered or sounded out. Use supportive sounds like “um-hum” or “I can imagine” in response to the person’s expressive comments. Use body language of your own to help ease the person’s tensions; a wink, a smile, or a nod, go a long way to alleviate concerns.

Encourage the person to use and repeat a few key phrases or words. While a routine vocabulary may be inaccessible for the speech-impaired, a handful of words can be enough to get the message across. “Hurt,” “bad,” “sick,” and “here” (accompanied by pointing) can alert the caregiver to a problem.

If the elderly person can write, keep a notepad and pen handy at all times and in several places, such as the dining area, bedroom, living room, and even the bathroom. Writing a short message like “thirsty” will convey a clear message to the caregiver.

Most of all put yourself in that person’s place and remember that a little kindness and understanding goes a long way….

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