How to Better Understand Communication Through Behavior

Help understand a person with dementia through their communication behaviors

Learn communication behaviors

We can learn what an individual with dementia is thinking by their communication behaviors. Especially if they find it difficult to talk or find the correct words.

If a person has later-stage dementia their ability to communicate will become more difficult as the disease progresses.

So it is vital to try to understand the ways in which the person will talk. Or try to express their feelings and let you know their thoughts about what they are thinking and feeling. This is often done through their communication behaviors.

Communication can become difficult with later-stage dementia

Communication may seem simple to those without dementia. But if you have Alzheimer’s or another form of memory loss, understanding how difficult communication can be when you are confused or struggling to find the correct words can be difficult. Especially for a non-suffer to understand.

But a better understanding of the way a person with dementia may express their feelings and thoughts through their communication behaviors can help us better understand and deal with the person to make them feel more comfortable.

Below we take a look at some of the ways in which a person with dementia might express their thoughts and feelings through their communication behaviors.

Restless and unsettled communication behaviors

When a person is restless or looking unsettled it can be an early indication that they are feeling unwell. Suffering from pain. Feeling anxious about something. Feeling uncomfortable with how they are sat or the situation they are in. Thirsty or hungry, bored or even angry about something.

Often a person with dementia will pace up and down or fidget, this could indicate to you that the person is unsettled or feeling restless.
This may indicate something as simple as the person wanting to use the toilet or feeling that they may need some kind of physical activity. This could also be because of a change in the person’s environment, this is common if the individual has recently moved into a residential or care home. Especially if the person has been living alone in their own home.

Check to see if the person needs the toilet by guiding them towards it rather than just asking them if they need the toilet. There is no harm in allowing the person to pace up and down but you must make sure that the person is able to do so safely.

If they are outdoors make sure the person is wearing the appropriate clothing for the weather and that garden gates or areas they are walking in are secure so the person does not wander away from the safe area. If indoors it would be helpful if the area is clear of any obstructions such as furniture of household items.

A noisy environment can also unsettle a person with dementia so it can help if you remove the person to a quieter place or turn off TV’s or radio’s. Reassuring the person that they are safe with a smiling face, holding hands or a hug can also help to reassure the person that they are safe.

Repetitive Behavior

A common practice of a person with dementia is to constantly repeat words or behavior such as moving things items backwards and forwards. They could repeat questions  like “what time is it” or “when are we going out” This can be very frustrating for the carer but you must remember that this equally frustrating for the person with dementia because they feel as though they are not getting the answers to their questions.

Encourage the person find answers to the questions they are asking themselves. An example would be if the person is asking repetitively asking what the time is. Encourage them to look at the clock and try to work out the time. (a clock with large hand, numbers and dial will help the person to better understand the time)

Another common question a person may ask is asking to go home.  This is often a place where the person lived when they were younger or when they were a child. This is a common condition of most dementia’s, when a person refers to their past home which the memory of the person sees as a secure and comfortable place to be. reassurance that the person is safe and secure and deflecting the conversation away from the place they live or offering other activities can help.

Shouting with dementia

A person may shout a person’s name, place or may appear very distressed and shout for help because they believe they are not being cared for. They may wail, howl or scream and this can continue for a prolonged period of time which can be very distressing for the sufferer and also the carer.

You should always investigate the possible reasons for their shouting. You should never just leave the person to continue shouting without investigating the reasons why. Although you may not always get the person to tell you why they are shouting.

It could be that the shouting is a result of their medication causing them hallucinations or changes in their brain activity as the dementia progresses with particular kinds of dementia. Or it could be that the person if feeling confused or upset about something or it could simply be they are not happy with the situation they are in.

With memory loss the person may feel alone and that they have nobody to turn to. This can often happen at night when it is dark. If this happens a nightlight can help give reassurance to the person.

A person may shout for a person from their past or for someone they know. always reassure the person that they are safe and secure and they are not alone.

– If you need further help with communication behaviors we have a very useful article here

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