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5 Ways to Use Nonverbal Communication in Dementia Care

As dementia worsens, communication becomes more difficult. It causes seniors to have difficulty expressing their needs and wants. The damage the disease has caused in the brain impacts their ability to understand what others say to them. That can make it frustrating for family caregivers to give the older adult instructions or to calm them when they are feeling anxious. One way to get past the barrier that impaired communication causes is to use nonverbal cues to express what you want the older adult to do and how you feel about them. Below are 5 ways to use nonverbal communication with your aging relative.

#1: Positive Attitude

Older adults with dementia can pick up on how their caregivers are feeling and may respond to it. Therefore, projecting a positive attitude and staying calm can also make the senior calmer. Try to avoid using body language that indicates you’re feeling angry or frustrated. If you’re finding it hard to stay positive, it can be helpful to walk away for a few minutes to cool down.

#2: Engage the Senses

Use gentle touch to show your older family member how you feel about them. Hold their hand, place your hand reassuringly on their shoulder, or give them a hug. Don’t forget their other senses, though. Quiet music can be soothing. Use scents that remind the older adult of things from their life. For example, if they enjoyed baking, you might use an electric wax melter that gives off the smell of apples or apple pie. Just don’t use a candle with an open flame as that could be dangerous.

#3: Encourage the Use of Gestures

When the senior cannot find the right word to tell you what they need or want, encourage them to use hand gestures to express themselves. For example, ask them to point at what they want, such as the television remote or a glass of water.

#4: Be Aware of Personal Space

Be careful not to invade your aging relative’s personal space. Sometimes caregivers stand too close or put their faces too close to the older adult in an attempt to get them to understand. That can be intimidating and make the senior anxious. Avoid getting closer than you normally would with other people. Also, don’t stand over the older adult when you’re talking to them. Instead crouch down or sit to get on eye level.

#5: Be Observant

Nonverbal communication goes both ways. Pay attention to your older family member’s body language. It can help you to understand how they are feeling and determine if they might be feeling pain or discomfort.

Home care agencies try to match the skills and experience of their staff members with the needs of their clients. Therefore, the home care agency will likely assign a staff member who has worked with older adults with dementia in the past. In fact, the home care provider may have their own tips and techniques for overcoming the unique challenges of dementia.


If you are considering home care services in Katy, TX, for an aging loved one, please call the caring staff at At Your Side Home Care. We will answer all of your senior care questions. Call today: (832) 271-1600.

Donna Wrabel, LMSW

For most of us, the word "home" evokes warm feelings of comfort, security and well-being. For older adults, home also means holding tight to cherished memories and maintaining self-esteem and independence. When illness, injury or age make life a little more challenging, remaining at home in a comfortable, familiar environment encourages recovery and enhances the quality of life. Home can be defined as a private residence, an independent or assisted living facility or even a short term stay in the hospital, we recognize the additional benefits provided by a personal, professional assistant.

Our Certified Nurse Aides, 24-Hour Live-in Assistants and Home Health Aides are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We also provide the security and confidence of 24-hour Telephone Assistance, so fast, reliable help is always available when it's needed. To learn more about our homecare services see our homecare services page.

Different people need different levels of homecare. To meet the requirements of our clients, At Your Side Homecare maintains consistent staffing levels of caring professionals. Homecare service is available for as little as a few hours a week, or as many as 24 hours a day, seven days a week