I've learned to wait for answers.
For me, it's a sign of respect that I wait for the resident to tell me how they like their coffee. If they are struggling, I may say, "Do you like cream?" That is usually answered immediately. Then I add, "What about sugar?" This separates the answer into manageable pieces, and usually makes it possible for the person to answer for themselves. That's important.
Today, I was getting a cup of coffee for a resident while he waited to get his hair cut. (He's not great at waiting, and this was to help.) I looked him in the eye and said, "How do you like your coffee?" He opened his mouth, but before he could get the words out, both his daughter and his caregiver answered, "Cream, no sugar." I can't tell you how annoyed I was. Let him tell me!
Don't take communication away from your loved one when you know what they are trying to say. Unless it is distressing them, give them the gift of time to answer.
Here are a few more communication tips:
1) Did you know a hearing-aid, when it isn't working, is an effective ear plug? Check batteries every day, and replace them weekly. Leave the casing open at night to make the batteries last longer. Check for wax--some types get plugged easily. If you suspect a hearing aid isn't working and you've checked these other areas, immediately take it to your provider. Not being able to hear causes confusion, isolation and frustration. And there's NO communication.
2) Speak slowly, calmly, and use simple, direct statements. Don't speak as if addressing a child, but slow the speed of your sentences down. This takes a conscious effort, but is more effective in getting your message across.
3) Listen with your heart. Sometimes the words aren't the message.
4) Use concrete rather than ambiguous words.
5) Simplify your words.
6) Give one instruction at a time. "We're sorting the cutlery here. Can you put all the knives in one pile?"
7. If you hear the same story or phrase several time, act like it's the first time, every time. It is to them. Never, but a word or a look or a raised eyebrow, make fun of the person. People with Alzheimer's can be incredibly perceptive.
Remember, it's all about respect.
More next week.