Dementia can rob older adults of their ability to construct clear thoughts and ideas, leaving them confused and agitated, the Mayo Clinic found. When working with patients who suffer from dementia, caregivers must use their training and background to help in daily tasks, as well as monitor verbal and nonverbal signs of communication. That can leave spouses, who may lack that training, feeling powerless to help their partners. A new study from Florida Atlantic University studied the ways spouses can assist caregivers.
"Caregivers and patients improved their skills over the 10-week period."
Providing tools for communication
The study analyzed over 118 conversations between couples over a 10-week period. One member of the couple was diagnosed with dementia. Caregivers learned skills that allowed them to communicate with their partners in a way that was clear and respectful. Importantly, they used communication styles to remain calm without agitating the dementia patient. After developing these abilities in the caregivers, the researchers watched interactions between patients and caregivers, monitoring for sociable and unsociable behaviors. Both the caregivers and patients improved their skills over the 10-week period.
"Using this new tool, I was able to confirm that the intervention I used actually worked and that communication improved in both the spouse caregiver and the patient over time," said Christine Williams, who led the study, in a press release. "I was ecstatic because I originally thought that maybe the caregiver's communication would improve and that would be great. However, to have positive changes in a person who is continuing to decline over 10 weeks, which is a long time, was something I really did not expect."
Training is essential
Learning how to effectively communicate is an essential tool for caregivers. It can help them remain engaged with a dementia patient. It can also help the patients stay positive, even in the face of their changing health. With a growing number of individuals developing dementia as they age, building communication skills with dementia patients is critical. To learn more, sign up for Mariposa Training's Communication: Powerful Tools For Communicating With Residents With Dementia And / Or Delirium with Dr. Keith Savell. In this webinar, you'll learn non-verbal communication skills that will minimize agitation with dementia patients and give caregivers the tools to adapt to their environment. Sign up today!