Communicating with a loved one who is suffering from dementia is challenging and can lead to feelings of frustration, hurt, confusion, and sometimes anger. You know what is real; yet, when your elderly parent or partner of 50-plus years tells you differently, your initial reaction is to quickly correct them through a series of questions and/or statements. However, this approach also leads to a wide array of emotional responses from the person suffering from dementia.
Rather, a much better approach is to apply “The Four Rules of Improv.” The rules are used by improv comedians to learn how to respond when put in various situations in front of a live audience. These same rules are also used by home caregivers to help them communicate more effectively with someone suffering from dementia. You, too, can learn these rules and use them to help alleviate the frustrations both you and your loved one experience.
- Always respond in an agreeable manner by saying “yes.” When you start with an open mind and respond by accepting things as they are, from the perspective of the person suffering dementia, the conversation will begin from a positive starting point. For instance, your loved one says they are going on vacation to see your grandparents, yet you know they have been deceased for years. Rather than correcting you loved one, simply say “yes” and see where the conversation goes from here.
- The second rule goes hand-in-hand with the first one—say “yes and …” This means to take what was said and expand upon it by contributing to the conversation and attempting to set the flow of communications. Going back to our example, instead of confronting your loved one and forcing them to remember their parents are dead, you could respond by asking how they are doing and when your loved one was planning on leaving.
- The third rule is where you “make a statement.” Instead of asking questions throughout the conversation, it is helpful to make statements as well. People suffering from dementia can feel agitated and confused when presented with too many questions. Using our example, you might say how it would be nice if you could take time off work and go on vacation, too.
- The last rule says “There are no mistakes, only opportunities.” Conversations with people suffering from dementia will not always go as you planned. So, you have to learn to adapt and be flexible. Sometimes the announcement of your loved one going on vacation will result in a wonderful conversation about them looking forward to their trip. Other times, it could lead to you being accused of hiding their car keys or taking their car.
The concept behind using these four rules is to better help you and your loved one live in the moment and reduce anxiety and tension, so they feel more at ease and relaxed. It is equally important to remember their reality is the only one that matters, so just go with the flow.
For help with caring for a loved one, who is suffering from dementia, assistance is available from Home Care Assistance of San Antonio. Contact us at 210.996.2733 today for more information about our home care services.