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Top Tips to Help Aging & Ailing Family Members- December 2013
December 12, 2013


What's Going on in There?

One of the painful mysteries of dementia can be trying to understand what your family member needs and wants when their communication skills are impaired. Elements of the disease can make communication difficult such as loss of vocabulary, the inability to speak or write clearly or at all, mood swings which result in frustration becoming an angry outburst and lack of facial expression that limits visual communication clues.

Here are some suggestions that may help when your family member acts in a way you do not expect.

Always assume that your family member’s action have meaning. It may be difficult to understand what that meaning may be but their actions have meaning.

Try to stay in a place of being curious about what’s going on even when your family member’s behavior is upsetting.

Explore these four areas when investigating what your family member is trying to communicate.

Unmet Physical Needs

Could your family member to uncomfortable? Too hot? Too cold? Need to rest? Hungry? Thirsty? Could your family member be ill or in pain? Urinary tract infections are notorious for affecting behavior in elders.

The Environment

Have there been recent changes in the environment? Is the atmosphere too busy or noisy? Has your daily routine changed? New caregivers? People with dementia have limited resources to cope with change.

Lack of Understanding

Could your family member be frightened by intimate personal care that they need with toileting, changing of adult diapers or bathing? Is it possible that your family member is having trouble recognizing you or other caregivers? Lack of Appropriate Stimulation

Lack of Appropriate Stimulation

Communication issues can lead to isolation. Could your family member be bored or lonely? In what ways can you and other caregivers engage with your family member in a meaningful way? Can former favorite activities or work activities be adapted to their current situation?


As your family member loses communication skills, you and others around them will have to fill in the gaps through observation and trial and error. Use the four areas of investigation as a checklist to interpreting behavior.





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