The magic word in Alzheimer’s is not please, it’s YES.
My clients often come in begging for a magic phrase, or word to stop certain behaviors, to get Mom to take her meds, or to convince Dad that he doesn’t have a 2 am tee time.
When I don’t say, “oh yeah, all you have to say is …” I usually see frustrations grow – especially the third, or fourth time I fail to bestow the magic they are looking for.
This American Life ran this entertaining story a few weeks ago about one family’s success using one part validation technique and one part humor to better communicate with their mother. The story also shows that one technique doesn’t work for every communicator.
What most people don’t realize is that communicating with dementia is something that is mainly figured out through trial and error. There are no magic words or phrases, rather there are a few approaches and techniques that can be employed.
Validation theory suggests that we meet with the person where they are, and validate their reality. That means we resist the urge to correct, argue over lost details, or point out memory symptoms and disorientation. This care and consideration reduces stress and resistance to care. It creates trust, and deepens bonds by allowing the demented person to feel heard and understood, even when what they are saying may not make much sense. (Link to more info below)
Well Validation Theory gets mention in the linked radio program below, it is a common improv technique that works wonders with one woman throttled by dementia.
Entertaining, interesting, and informative, this recording may give you some ideas for better communication with dementia.