Communicating: Respect No Matter What the State-of-Mind

I’ve noticed that people at Mother’s assisted living facility, as well as many of the other people who see her daily, are respectful of her limited communication skills and try to work around her dementia disorientation.

A flower arrangement for mother's apartment

At her assisted living facility staff members always take a few moments after they enter the apartment, addressing her by name to get her attention, asking how she feels, and then explaining what needs to be done (meds, blood pressure, other exam, etc.). No one ever bursts in and grabs her arm or starts a procedure without first interacting in positive and gentle ways. If it takes a few moments to get Mother focused, the staff member takes those moments, never rushing.

I’ve also noticed that the staff members never discuss her medical problems as if she is a child who is seen but not heard. Sometimes Mother is included, and and at other times people speak to us privately, but they never act as if she is not present in the room.

They also listen calmly when they seek information from Mother. Thus they take time and patiently wait for her to answer, knowing that the stroke and dementia have dramatically limited her language skills.

Small gestures like this provide her with a bit more control in an increasingly limited and confusing world.

Check out this page at for a communication tip sheet that gives many more suggestions for caregivers and adult children.

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