Monday, April 21, 2014

Communication: Word Choice, Tone of Voice, Personal Attitude

Seniors with Dementia deserve better communication. Here are some of the words/phrases we overheard at Mom's SNC/LTC facility, within Hospitals and Medical Care facilities including Dr's offices and Rehab facilities.

Patronizing, accusatory and negating approaches resulting in Seniors various reactions from frustration to anger and everywhere in between:

"Come on now, honey, you can do it, just try a little harder."

"Now, Mary (made up name), we both know you know how to do this. You've just got to put your mind to it."
"I don't get it, "Mary", you were able to do this earlier today/yesterday and now you don't want to even try?"
"There. That's right. I knew you could do it if you just tried a little harder."
"All right, "Mary", you said "No" and I have other work to do with other people."

Language and choice of words that can be personally demoralizing or demeaning take away a person's feeling of dignity and when applied by one constant caregiver or several deteriorates the Senior's well being both mentally and physically.

One of the many personally demeaning comments I heard directed towards my mother: "Oh, (name), you made so much Poo; so much; so much Poo.  Such a mess. Such a mess.  Now I have to clean you up and you know that hurts when I do.  So much Poo."

My heart broke so many times when I saw or heard actions and words taking my Mom, my wonderful, highly capable Mom, that had once again failed to please, failed to do something or did something that caused more work, more care, more time.

What was missing?  COMPASSION. And also concern for the other person; belief that there was still, no matter how "conscious" or "unconscious" a person was, some part of their "being" was still hearing/seeing/feeling. DIGNITY.

Child psychologists tell us HOW we talk to a child and WHAT WE SAY can have more of an affect on their development and ability to have self esteem and grow positively.

WHY AREN'T WE UNDERSTANDING HOW IMPORTANT WHAT WE SAY AND HOW WE SAY IT IS TO ADULTS who may have cognitive or capacity issues/challenges but who are still, like an infant or young child, listening and learning about the people who "care" for them and forming opinions of their "self" and "abilities" as much as they are about how they will respond to others.

As has been written many times in this blog, Lewy Body Dementia DOES NOT totally disable, totally impair or destroy capacity or cognition and can provide a level of these abilities capable of being affected far into the disease and the "Late Stage" as well as the Beginning and Middle Stages.

SPEAK UP, PLEASE.  Let your voices be heard. We want your comments. We need your feedback. We all benefit from observations and comments from relatives and friends in this blog and others and in ways that will change our society's way of communicating and serving our older population, especially those who visit medical facilities including staying in Rehabs, have Respite or live "permanently" in Long Term Care Facilities.

QUESTION:  How were you taught to walk, feed yourself, hold a pencil or do any other skills involving using both your mind and a part or parts of your body? That's a basic learning stage. How many books, articles on line and other resources did you use including attending seminars and school meetings to "learn" how to work with your child, to develop their "full potential" whatever their mental or physical abilities or challenges?

NOW, ASK YOURSELF:  How many meetings directed towards developing/maintaining the potential of our elderly are in our Communities, Long Term Care Residences and other places?

QUESTION:  Why aren't all members of Long Term Care Facilities and Rehab Facilities required to take special courses in Communicating With Mentally Challenged Individuals AND required to complete specific levels of training on Dementia of all types along with Certification in various levels of care?

Topic for another time:  Lack of Accreditation for Senior Caregivers in Dementia and related diseases recognition, management and communication within the Elder Care Community.

Why isn't there more of a movement in the Senior Care/Caregiving area to use skillsets developed in Early Childhood Education and working with people with limited abilities (aka "disabilities", a word I find inappropriate at the least) using similar techniques and tactics to promote retention and building of skillsets?

DEMENTIA IS A DISABILITY and we should recognize it as being one. 


I like the word and terminology "limitation" applied to people of all ages who experience challenges physically and mentally in daily activities.

Please: Speak Up; Speak Out; Write: Video; Take Pictures: Make Dementia Known & Respected

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