On the most basic level, we all want to feel loved. Despite any differences in age or understanding, this is key to remember when caring for or speaking to a senior with memory impairment. Conversation can be a challenge when it is difficult to remember happenings from one moment to the next. This compounded with life changes like moving, reduced mobility, or downsizing often makes for stressful interactions with family members, friends, or clients.
We gathered a few suggestions to help you communicate openly and lovingly with seniors suffering from memory loss.
Imagine how it would feel to suffer memory loss. There are often feelings of confusion and mistrust that come along with the experience. Being empathetic is the first step to truly being open to what is being communicated without taking offense to a forgotten name or detail.
Be Aware of Body Language
Body Language communicates beyond words and surpasses the barrier of understanding memory impairment may have in place. It is important to maintain eye contact, a relaxed posture, as well as smile genuinely and often. Emotions can often be "felt" through body language and nonverbal cues.
Take the time to create a calm and quiet environment for conversation, especially important conversations. Making sure there is a reduction in distractions will help the senior focus on their conversation with you. Remember to pay close attention to what your friend, client or loved one is saying while keeping interruptions to a minimum. This will give comfort and build trust.
If a senior wants a moment to remember their history or past take the time to allow them the moment. When possible ask questions about the past and listen actively. Many times, remembering something from the past is easier and more enjoyable for those suffering memory loss. This will give them a chance to feel heard, appreciated, contributing, and connected.
Remember to take the conversation one moment at a time. This can be done by keeping conversation simple and willingly repeating information. Allow for time to process the conversation without rushing the moment. This can help reduce anxiety, uncertainty, and confusion for someone who has memory impairment.
Your conversations may be limited in understanding and this can often be a source of frustration for both you and the senior. Maintain a calming tone and body language to keep the conversation healthy. Be sure to listen to and acknowledge emotions, like fear, anger, and anguish in a loving way.
Although these suggestions are simple, we often forget how important they are to feeling loved, heard, and understood by others. We must diligently work to use kindness and patience with seniors who suffer from memory impairment by remembering how confusing the present may be for them.
Most of all remember love conquers all. Even if they can't remember you, they can feel how much you care.