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Is the Nursing Home Staff Really Communicating With Your Elderly Parent?

People with Alzheimer’s or dementia do better when the person caring for them understands their mental limits. When caregivers do not communicate the right way it can lead to unnecessary stress and even distress. Caregivers who work with elderly people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s need to be properly trained. Your loved one’s caregiver has a duty to communicate effectively with your parent. In fact, that is perhaps the biggest part of their job.

5 things caregivers should never say to people with dementia

When dealing with vulnerable, elderly people the caregiver needs to give simple instructions, asking the person to do only one thing at a time. They should speak slowly and clearly, and wait for a response.

Here are five other things that the Alzheimer’s Association recommends that caregivers should not say, and what to say instead:

  1. You’re wrong. Of course, the resident with dementia is going to be wrong, they have a debilitating disease that is killing their mind. Instead, the caregiver should gently redirect the conversation. A caregiver should not argue with a person suffering from dementia, instead, they should let it go and move on.
  2. I told already told you. This assumes, again, that the person with dementia is not trying hard enough to remember, is lazy, or is consciously being difficult. It puts shame on the person who can’t remember.
  3. They’re dead. Many times a person with dementia will get lost in time. They will think they are in a place years or decades earlier. If the person remembered another person had died they would not ask about them. Telling a person with dementia that a person is gone feels like the first time they have heard it. It can cause great grief and needless suffering. Simply stating “They are not here right now,” is a way to change the subject. When asked where they are the answer can truthfully be, “I’m not sure. Where do you think they are?”
  4. Remember to… A person with dementia can not remember. Asking, telling, or expecting them to remember is both cruel and unreasonable. While a slip-up every now and then may not be able to be helped, constantly telling a person with dementia to remember is irresponsible.
  5. What do you want to eat or wear? A person with dementia has difficultly with open-ended questions. Instead, the caregiver should ask if the person wants to eat or wear a specific thing, “Would you like a cup of soup?” or “Do you want to put on your long coat?”

The people who staff nursing homes, such as nursing assistants, personal care assistants, and aides have a duty of care. Their job is to ensure that your loved one is getting all of their needs met. If they are failing to communicate and causing stress and shame, they are not fulfilling their duty of care.

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