Communication and Patience

By Robert Elmer III on February 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

Many years ago I began lecturing and educating professional and informal caregivers because I had seen first hand the impact that ignorance of dementia and how to deal with it, was having on caregiver and loved one alike. For the sake of clarity, my definition of ignorance is “a lack of knowledge or information.”Anger and frustration on the part of the caregivers and fear and confusion on the part of the loved ones are common emotions but what many people don’t realize is that most of the unfortunate behaviors that we experience when providing care are our fault. I’ve actually read that approximately 90% of aggressive behavior is caused by the caregivers behavior.
Anyone that knows me, knows that if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s shy. As one who feels he is indeed his brothers keeper, many is the time that I have randomly stepped in when I recognized that an uninformed caregiver was dealing with someone with dementia inappropriately. Recently, my wife and I were out at breakfast when I overheard this woman say to her mother “stop that, you’re doing it wrong.” Mom was trying to button her coat but had put the right button in the wrong hole. The daughter fix the problem then angrily said, “now you finish it.” Mom did finish it but the anger and frustration of the daughter and the mothers fear of the daughter was palpable.
Knowing how to effectively communicate with your loved one is critical to their quality of life. You have to be aware of everything from your facial expressions to the tone of your voice. Individuals with dementia can sense your emotions in spite of their cognitive challenges. You may remember the story that I shared with you where the caregiver wife, who was having a bad day, apologized to her husband before dinner by saying, “honey, I love you.” His response? “You say you love me but your eyes don’t.” Using a harsh tone of voice, trying to reason with them, correcting them as if they did something wrong, telling them they can’t or demanding things from them, is not the way to go. Instead, be patient with them, don’t argue with someone you’ll never win an argument with, show them what you want them to do and encourage them to do as much as they can and then help them. It’s also important to mention that you need to pay attention to what they are trying to tell you and never to talk to them “in lists.” Use one step instructions, again being kinder and gentler. Finally, it’s also important for every caregiver to never ask, “don’t you remember?” or to say “I just told you that.”
In case you were wondering, I did approach that daughter as she walked away from her mother while she finished buttoning her coat. I identified myself as someone that worked in the field of dementia care and I conceded that this was none of my business but… The good news is that although she was a little embarrassed she was very receptive and I was pleased to give her my card with my web site address along with some other immediate sources of information from support groups to the Alzheimer’s Associations 24 hour help line (800-272-3900.)
Speaking of resources and an opportunity to learn, The Rhode Island Alzheimer’s Association will be sponsoring its 5th annual Caregiver Conference on Thursday, March 5th. Along with a session on Communication, they’ll have sessions on Behavior Management, programs that will help you with in home care, fraud prevention and I will also be featured in a session called “The Do’s and Don’t of Alzheimer’s Care.” For more information on the entire day’s events and to register go to
If you have a question you’d like me to address please email me at and remember, Join The Journey.


Add comment

Leave a Reply