How to Use Cues to help the Confused Elder Understand What is Happening

Helping the confused elderly through cues.

Oxford Dictionary defines cue as” a signal to do something.”

The cue may be a smell, a touch, a sound, an item, or a visual symbol. Using a full complement of cues through out the day can help the confused elderly understand the environment, and what is happening at any given moment.

A familiar smell can tell the confused elder it is time to eat

A smell can be a cue that is time to eat, if the cue you smell is pot roast.  A smell can stimulate your appetite such as passing a bakery and smelling the cookies, may make you feel like having a cookie. A fragrance such as baby powder cues you that there is a baby around.  The smell of laundry soap cues you that you are wearing clean clothes.

Seeing a symbol works best as a cue, when the symbol looks the most like what it represents. So a picture of a lawnmower will be a better cue than a line drawing of the same mower. A picture of a banana will not be as good a cue for “do you want a banana” as holding out a real banana to the confused elder.

Helping the confused elderly through combining cues.

Putting a favorite hand lotion on the elder’s hands and massaging it in is using the cues of touch as well as smell.  Hearing running water, holding a bath towel and smelling their life long favorite soap, Dove can cue the elder that they are taking a bath.

Communicating with the confused elderly using cues is non-verbal communication. When the elders have lost their “words” and no longer understand what is being said to them. They can still understand what is going on around them, through your cues.

Cues are forms of communication – helping the confused elder do more for themselves, better understand the environment and know what is going on around them, is the reason for offering cues.

Virginia Garberding R.N.

Director of Education, The Wealshire, Lincolnshire, Illinois

Author: Please Get To Know Me – Aging with Dignity and Relevance

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