When a senior loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, their verbal communication skills are impacted. Because of this, it’s essential that families explore new ways of communicating.

Some families find it useful to provide visual reminders. Examples include a sign with a picture of a cup on the cabinet where you store glasses or a photo of socks on the sock drawer.

Another option is to provide cue cards with photos for the senior to use when they need something and can’t express it. You could include photo prompts for food, water, a blanket, the bathroom, and more. On days when your family member is struggling, these tools can make communication less difficult.

One last suggestion that is worth the time it takes to master is prompting. You can use it to encourage a loved one with dementia to try to accomplish tasks on their own, but with a little direction from you.

Prompt Techniques for Adults with a Memory Impairment

While it can be tough for family caregivers to cope with their loved one’s inability to communicate, it’s probably even more frustrating for them. That’s further compounded when caregivers run out of patience and take over doing tasks completely. Instead, learn more about the types of prompts people with dementia may respond to.

  • Verbal prompts: Tasks that require memory and abstract thought are especially challenging when memory is impaired. Getting dressed in the morning or preparing for bed at night are two examples. While you may think it’s helpful to lay clothing out on your loved one’s bed, that’s really only step one of the process. By using verbal prompts, you’ll make it possible for the older adult to maintain a sense of independence. You could carry on a simple conversation while also guiding them step-by-step through the task. Keep the directions short, such as, “Take your shoes and socks off. Put your bathrobe on.” Giving a person with dementia too many steps to follow at once will force them to rely on short-term memory that is likely damaged.
  • Hand gestures: A person with memory loss will likely be able to follow gestures you provide one at a time. If you want them to brush their teeth for example, point to their toothbrush and toothpaste. Then pretend as if you are placing toothpaste on an invisible toothbrush and lifting it to your mouth. You might have to model this step twice and then mimic brushing your teeth. It will take longer than just doing it for your loved one, but they will feel more independent doing it for themselves.
  • Hand guidance: Though this one doesn’t allow for quite as much self-sufficiency, it still gives the senior a sense of independence. If your family member is struggling with a particular task, place your hand over or under theirs to act as a guide. Gently help your loved one overcome what is keeping them from succeeding, and then allow them to try again to finish the action. The idea is to provide just enough support as is necessary.

Memory Care Neighborhoods at Heritage

As the leading provider of dementia care in Michigan, caregivers in memory care neighborhoods at Heritage communities receive specialized training. It helps our staff to learn how to support the unique needs of people with memory loss. We invite you to schedule a private tour to learn more.