Creative communication eases strain of caregiving

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"It does not matter how long you are spending on the earth, how much money you have gathered or how much attention you have received. It is the amount of positive vibration you have radiated in life that matters." ― Amit Ray

One of the many roles filled by dementia care specialists at Memory Matters is to teach caregivers creative communication techniques. We teach that the primary goal is always to comfort the individual with dementia and to spare them unnecessary emotional upset. Let's review some of the most successful techniques.

Therapeutic fibbing: Not all situations call for this approach, but I will tell you, this technique should be viewed as an act of kindness and not "lying."

Many grapple with the ethical issues of not being completely truthful with their loved one who has lived an authentic life; however, when used properly, this technique can lower caregiver stress level and promote calmness for the person with dementia.

Suppose your loved one asks when his mom is coming over for dinner. You know his mom has been dead for more than 20 years. But what would be the right way to talk about this and not cause an argument or upset?

Here's an example: He asks, "Honey, when is mom coming over?" You could say, "Your mom has been dead for years. What is wrong with you?" Or you could say, "I think she will be here next Wednesday. What should we cook for dinner when she comes?"

The result with the latter answer will be much less anxiety. This conversation might happen again tomorrow, and once again you must be creative with your answer.

Re-orientation: Does it really matter if your loved one says it is January when it is really June? It is not necessary to have a confrontation over such a small thing. If they say it is January, then let it be January. A correction could make her feel anxious and lower her self-esteem.

Distraction: This can be done by reminiscing, going for a walk together or sharing a story. Distraction can be a wonderful tool for getting the person off a certain subject or questions, and one can avoid the feelings of guilt associated with using a therapeutic fib.

Creative communication techniques can not only relieve your loved one of emotional upset, but also can help reduce your stress. It is important to remember that when these techniques are used with love and respect, you are doing all that you can to maintain a high quality of life for your loved one.

For more information on our support groups, classes or to make an appointment with one of our dementia care specialists, call Memory Matters at 843-842-6688.

Save the date, beginning Oct. 16, for Dementia Dialogues being offered by Memory Matters at The Palmettos of Bluffton. For more information and to reserve a seat, call Anna Makar at 843-707-9400.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org

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