Language Is Not the Only Form of Communication

This is very true in real life. Communication is an important part of human life. Can we imagine a life where we are not able to communicate and express our emotions? Life will have no meaning and it will be unworthy. This is exactly what happens to an elderly diagnosed with dementia, where there is loss of language seen commonly.

There are jumbled mixed words, repetition of sentences and inability to find the right word seen commonly from which they want to express their emotions and their needs. It becomes a challenge for the caregivers and family members to understand what the elderly really want and what issues they are facing. Understanding what elderly want to say is very important for implementing any care plan or overall well being.

Some of the things which they would like to communicate and the caregivers have to understand are from non verbal communications. These are gestures, behavioral changes, changes in routine, minute reactions etc. Some of the best examples which I have seen are repetition of sentences like "I want to go home", calling names of their close relatives, sudden involuntary body movements, crying spells, refusing food, sudden drop in activities all have their own unsaid meanings. A well trained caregiver in this case can interpret these changes through their experience and the deep relationship they share with the elderly.

A commonly seen situation is sudden refusal to have meals or an active resident suddenly becoming inactive can be a sign of undiagnosed pain. For an elderly with poor communication it will be hard to convey if they are having pain precisely and where. This can be addressed by simply touching parts of the body in a dignified way and asking if they have pain. They may sometimes nod their head in yes or no. This situation has to be dealt with patience and experience. Understanding the underlying cause and acting in the correct manner can bring the resident to normal.

Crying spells or involuntary body movements can be a sign of being isolated or missing their loved ones. This can also be a sign of discomfort or they may have even experienced abuse or rude behaviour by the caregiver. The elderly have to be handled with lots of love and care, which they may be needing most at that time. The caregiver should spend time with the elderly to make them feel loved and secure. Signs of abuse have to be monitored and poor triggers eliminated.

Another common symptom is repetition of words or using same phrases again and again, For eg: an elderly may call up when they are hungry but may not be able to express it by accurately saying so,. They may say "Table" instead of "food". An experienced and trained caregiver will be able to identify and interpret what "table" means. It is also good practice to maintain a behaviour log to record such information and interpretations which can be used as a guide for taking care of the elderly.

To put it in a nutshell, for taking care of an elderly with loss of communication skills, family members and the caregiver have to enter into their world to understand their non-verbal communications and gestures as much as the spoken words. Everything they do or say have a meaning just like difficult behaviours exhibited like agitation or wandering. This is of course tough but not impossible. If you have devotion and love for your elderly you can cross any boundaries and can read from their eyes what they want.

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