How to Use Nonverbal Communication in Dementia Caregiving

Daughter hugging happy senior mother
Utilizing nonverbal communication in dementia caregiving is often an effective way to connect and engage.

Connecting with a senior loved one struggling with all the challenges of Alzheimer’s, particularly in the middle and later stages, may be frustrating – both for you and for your loved one. Brain changes affect the capacity to hear, process, and respond appropriately to conversations, and it is up to us to put into practice innovative approaches to communicating more successfully. Nonverbal communication in dementia caregiving is often a much more effective technique.

What’s promising is, it’s less complicated than it may seem. We already communicate nonverbally in numerous ways:

  • Contact
  • Posture and body motion
  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Gestures
  • Personal space

Test these strategies to include increased nonverbal communication in your interactions with a loved one:

  • Offer reassurance through caring touch. If a loved one is comfortable with touch, hold and pat the senior’s hand, rub the person’s back, put an arm around their shoulders, and share warm hugs.
  • Look the senior in the eye. Eye contact expresses interest in the individual, even if no words are spoken aloud.
  • Honor personal boundaries. Avoid intimidating the person by allowing adequate personal space, and making sure you are at the very same level as the senior, never towering over them. Your face should be at eye level with the other person.
  • Maintain a peaceful, patient, and positive attitude. Curb any anger, aggravation, or impatience, and concentrate on keeping a relaxed and pleasant expression on your face when with the person. If this is problematic based on difficult behaviors, walk away briefly and practice deep breathing or some other relaxation strategies, such as:
    • Square breathing: Use a finger to trace the shape of a square in front of you. When tracing the first side, breathe in deeply for a count of three; for the following side, hold your breath for one second; for the third side, breathe out for a count of three; and for the fourth side, hold your breath for one second. Do it again as necessary.
    • Relaxing phrase repetition: A few suggestions to help you get started: This will pass, and things are ok. I’m able to handle this. I am safe and well.
    • Distracted thinking: Practice concentrated refocusing. Try reciting the alphabet backwards, stating as many state capitals as you can, or singing the words to a song you like.

Discover more innovative strategies to effective dementia care by getting in touch with Dakota Home Care, the top provider of at home caregivers in Bismarck, Mandan, and Fargo, ND. Our caregivers are specially trained in the most current Alzheimer’s care techniques, and we’re always available to help a senior with dementia to remain safe and calm, and to enjoy life to the fullest possible potential. Contact us at (877) 691-0015 any time for assistance.

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