Caregiver Tips: Words That Help – When the elder you care for has Alzheimer’s Disease

Positive communication and the confused elder.

Just as words can be negative (see: Words That Hurt) words can also be used to make a person feel good about themselves. It can be:
• The way you say it.
• The words you use.
• The body language you show.

The way you say it – say it with a smile.

When words are said with a negative voice – if the confused elder has lost their word skills, and no longer understand the word – they only have the tone of the voice to go on. Even a compliment will sound bad if the tone of the voice is negative. When the tone of the voice communicates anger, impatience, and disgust – the person will become very aware of their dysfunction.

When you say something with a smile on your face – it will be communicated into the tone of your voice. It has been proved to take more face muscles to frown than to smile – so give your face a rest and smile.

Avoid negative words – use positive words.

 Avoid words like don’t, no, can’t, and stop. Use words like thank you, good Job, let’s do that together, words that make a person feel positive and helpful. Elders with Alzheimer’s disease want to contribute and be helpful. It is so easy to say “thank you” and build that persons self esteem.

The confused elder can still read body language.
 Crossing your arms, tapping a foot, showing impatience, people with Alzheimer’s disease can read body language very late into the disease process. When the confused elder no longer has verbal skills they can still read the caregiver’s body language.

Talking about the person – in front of them as though they are not there is never appropriate.

Use words that build –not words that tear down and see the difference in the person you are caring for.

Caregiver Tips: Words that Hurt, When you are Caring for an elder with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Babies wear diapers the confused elder needs another word.

When the caregiver really gets to know the person they are caring for; who they are, where they have been, what they have done and what they would like to be remembered for, it is much harder to say “Let’s change your diaper.” Babies wear diapers, adults don’t. Elderly people who have had careers, raised children, earned degrees, served in the Armed Forces, don’t when they become incontinent due to Alzheimer’s, aging or illness deserve to be treated like babies.

These very necessary products can be called briefs, underpants, underwear, your protection, whatever word preserves the dignity of the person. Use a product that more resembles normal underwear – that pulls up rather than one that tapes on at the sides when possible.

Bib – a word that treats the confused elder like a baby.

Babies wear bibs, adults wear clothing protectors, napkins, words that describe the purpose or use. When caring for an elder, don’t take that clothing protector and use it to wipe the face of the person you are assisting to eat. That gesture of wiping an elder’s face with something attached to them treats them like a baby. Even when wearing a clothing protector the adult should have a napkin on their lap, which can be then used to wipe a mouth.

Words are powerful, be careful how you use them.

Words have the ability to make the elder feel good about themselves or bad about themselves. There is power in words, the words you choose, the way you say them, the relationship you have with the person you care for.

Protect the dignity of the confused elder you care for. The words you use are so important; choose wisely, it can make all the difference.

Caregiver’s Tips: Caregiver approach makes a difference for elderly with Alzheimer’s Disease

Caregiver Approach Affects Behaviors of Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease

When working with elderly with Alzheimer’s disease make sure that you are calm, not in a hurry and able to focus your attention on this individual. Remember that people with Alzheimer’s disease are very much in the moment. So for that moment they are not thinking of the future or the past and you need to be in the moment with them, for what ever task you are trying to accomplish.

Before you approach the elder, have a plan.

If you need supplies for your task have everything prepared.

Always approach a person from the front so that they can see you coming. This is especially true for a male caregiver and a male patient.

Position yourself on the level of the elder. If in a wheelchair squat a little to the side, in front of the person.

Never speak to the person from the back, above or the side of them.

Person’s with Alzheimer’s disease need to have a connection with you before you can interact with them.

SMILE – most important part of your approach.

Say the person’s first name or whatever name they are used to responding to.

Do not touch the person before they are aware of you and you have made that connection.

Establish a connection with the person before you attempt any type of care.

Remember people with Alzheimer’s disease are very sensitive to body language, tone of voice, negative gestures. If what you present to them is negative they will mirror the behavior they see and become negative as well.

Just as children are in the moment, much can be learned from working with a person with Alzheimer’s disease who is living in the moment. When you are in the moment you can experience and enjoy what is happening right now, without the stress of the future.

Safe Approaches for Caregivers when working with someone with Alzheimer’s disease who has Negative Behaviors

Over reactive responses of distress demonstrate the inability to understand, interpret or cope with a real or imagined situation. Identifying the cause that triggered the negative reaction as well developing safe approaches for this person is the key to success. When a behavior, that is triggered by a physical or psychosocial stimulus is anticipated, the use of a distraction can be put in place pro-actively. See Blogs “Communication”