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Elder Care Seattle WA: Communicating With Elders Who Cannot Speak

Communicating With Elders Who Cannot Speak
by Carol Bradley Bursack, Editor-in-Chief

Many elders who have suffered strokes or have dementia are not capable verbal communication. If they are confined to a nursing home, often people are reluctant to visit, as the visitor doesn’t know what to say or do. People stay away out of fear. Here are some tips to communicate with those who can’t speak.

There are ways to communicate with an elder who can’t speak. If you are visiting someone who you don’t know intimately, it’s good to ask family members or those who care for the person what that person likes.

  • Does he like to be touched?
  • Does she like music?
  • Does he like being read to?
  • Should you just sit and read yourself, hoping that your mere presence has some effect?

I remember many people who loved my father but couldn’t bring themselves to visit him after brain surgery left him demented. He often slept, and when he was awake he seem a frightening version of the person who he had been. So, people stayed away.

This broke my heart, as I knew Dad longed to see these people. He couldn’t understand how hard it was for them to see him so changed. He couldn’t understand that they didn’t know what to do if they did visit him. If they had only known how to handle a visit, it would have helped Dad have a better quality of life.

How Do You Communicate?

If the person likes to be touched, you can start by gently holding one hand. Be aware of how the elder responds to this touch. You’re watching for body language here. They may not be able to respond with a squeeze, but do they seem startled or do they withdraw?

This may not mean they don’t want touch, or it could be that you were too quick and need to move more slowly.

Most people respond well to a light touch, if it doesn’t seem too intimate. Many elders can benefit from light massage. Again, this should only be done by someone who is sensitive to body language. A gentle back rub or taking time to rub lotion onto their arms and legs can be a soothing element for the elder and make the visitor feel that the visit is welcomed and noticed. Only do this if you are close to them.

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For questions about live in home care for your aging loved one, please contact the caregivers at Andelcare. We provide everything from respite care for the primary caregiver to full time elder care in Seattle WA and the surrounding communities. Call us at 888-788-3051 for more information.