Communicating Beyond Words
We humans are social animals, and we thrive on contact with one another. Communication is a fundamental aspect and facet of relationships and the way we all interact and bring meaning to each other. Unfortunately, all too often, that communication breaks down and becomes more difficult as loved ones age and their health and capacities decline. For those adults aging through their twilight years, the prevalence and complexity of communication disorders increases with the onset of diseases and conditions that result in cognitive decline, such as strokes, or dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
Communicating with someone with dementia poses seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges. After all, dementia is a disease that targets language processing. By using tools that stimulate the senses, you will in turn enhance communication in people who have difficulty communicating verbally. This can help stimulate memories that those suffering from dementia would otherwise have trouble accessing. Using all five senses will activate different regions of the brain, allowing them access to memories they might not otherwise be able to recall.
Sight can be stimulated easily by activities like looking at old photo albums, reading together stimulating language use, or admiring art or nature together on a stroll. By playing music from their youth you can activate sound centers, and foster singing, dancing, and relaxation. Providing loved ones with a multitude of different textures and materials can encourage touch, as well as comforting closeness like hugging, back rubbing, or holding hands.
Smell and taste are closely linked and two of the senses most closely tied to memory. By providing perfumes or aftershaves or lotions that will remind them of past loved ones, you can provoke and share memories. Same with any favorite foods or cherished family recipes.