By learning to improve communication with your loved one who has Alzheimer’s you can reduce stress in your life and improve the quality of the relationship with your family member. A good place to begin is by remembering that communication is always a two-way street. You are sending information signals to another person while at the same time receiving signals from the other person. Improving communication means not only changing what you say and how you behave but also doing a better job of translating the sometimes confusing signals sent by patients with Alzheimer’s, for whom language skills have declined. It is also useful to remember that the quality of an exchange with an Alzheimer’s patient is influenced by the context and by the emotions that come into play on your part as well and as on the part of your loved one. They will not only hear what you say, they will also read your face and when the signals do not match you may elevate the confusion level. So it is essential that we set a positive mood or any communication. You need to know what you are feeling so that you can in ensure that your body language and facial expression as well as your tone of voice send the right message. In this course you will learn how to improve your communication, based on the vast experience of many professionals who have worked with Alzheimer’s patients over many years.
Early versus Late Onset Alzheimer’s
There are some important differences between early onset and late onset dementia of the Alzheimer’s type, that influences the likely results of improving communication. With early onset, disorientation begins between the ages of 50 and 70 years of age. With late onset disorientation begins usually past the age of 80. In early onset, the disease is progressive and in the end leads to death. In late onset the pattern is not always progressive and does not always end in death. Speech declines in an early onset while in late onset speech remains largely intact. Walking is often stiff and robot like in early onset and is more dance like and purposeful in late onset. In late onset, facial expression and overall emotional expression is highly varied. Whereas in early onset, there is a mask like expression and very little emotion. More importantly with in early onset there is less and less expression of emotions while in late onset, the patient expresses a full range of both positive and negative emotions. Improvement in our knowledge of communication styles and methods are more likely to achieve positive results with late onset than with early onset. However it is important to keep in mind that, although many of these methods were developed with Alzheimer’s patients, they can be of benefit with other types of dementia. Trying to improve communication patterns with early onset patients can be beneficial but will require greater patience.
Naomi Feil and Validation Therapy
Naomi Feil was the creator of a unique approach to working with patients with Alzheimer’s and other related disorders. Her approach has come to be called Validation Therapy. She is the Executive Director of the Validation Training Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. She earned her MSW from Columbia University and has studied at the new school for Social Research, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Michigan. Early in her work as a gerontologist she became dissatisfied with traditional methods and thus began to develop methods of her own to improve success. Her book the Validation Breakthrough: Techniques for Communicating with People with Alzheimer’s type Dementia was a major development in improving care for these patients. She is now internationally recognized and more than 7000 facilities in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia have adopted her methods. Those methods now are being taught to families and we will introduce those methods in this course. The best way to begin is by defining validation, which is acknowledging and accepting the emotional reality of another person in a nonjudgmental way. We are not requiring that they adopt our reality, rather we are trying to better understand their view, even if that view is influenced by illness. The two active words in the definition are acknowledging and accepting. Acknowledgment is required in order to communicate understanding and acceptance is required in order to avoid being judgmental.