Communicating with a loved one who is living with dementia is challenging and can lead to feelings of frustration, hurt, confusion, and sometimes anger. You know what’s real, yet when your elderly parent tells you differently, your initial reaction may be to quickly correct him or her through a series of questions and/or statements. Rather, a much better approach is to apply “The Four Rules of Improv.” These rules are used by improvisational performers to know how to respond when they’re put in various situations in front of a live audience. These same rules can also be used by home caregivers to help them communicate more effectively with someone who has dementia. Learn these rules and use them to alleviate the frustrations both you and your senior loved one experience.
1. The First Rule—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 your loved one, the conversation will begin from a positive starting point. For instance, your parent one may say he or she is going on vacation to see your grandparents, yet you know they’ve been deceased for years. Rather than correcting your loved one, simply say “yes” and see where the conversation goes from there.
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2. 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 communication. Going back to the earlier example, instead of confronting your loved one and forcing him or her to remember his or her parents are dead, you could respond by asking how they’re doing and when your loved one is planning on leaving.
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3. The Third Rule Is Where You “Make a Statement”
Instead of asking questions throughout the conversation, it can be helpful to make statements as well. People with dementia can feel agitated and confused when presented with too many questions. Using the same example, you might say it would be nice if you could take time off work and go on vacation, too.
4. The Last Rule Says, “There Are No Mistakes, Only Opportunities”
Conversations with people who have dementia won’t always go as 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 looking forward to the trip. Other times, it could lead to your loved one accusing you of hiding his or her car keys or taking his or her car.
Even when families have the best intentions, caring for a senior loved one with dementia can be challenging. Fortunately, Home Care Assistance is here to help. We are a leading provider of dementia care. Roseville families can take advantage of our flexible and customizable care plans, and our caregivers always stay up to date on the latest developments in senior care. For reliable in-home care services, contact us at (916) 226-3737 today.