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How to communicate with seniors who cannot speak

Just because your loved one has suffered a stroke, has dementia, or is not capable of verbal communication, does not mean you are unable to communicate with them. 

Start with asking a few good questions to those who care for your loved one.  Be sure to watch body language for clues as to enjoyment or distress when participating with them in any way.

  • Do they like to be touched? (remember: touch is not always appropriate for every person)
  • Do they like music?
  • Do they like being read to?

Touch – If the your loved one likes to be touched, one way to communicate is to hold their hand. People respond to touch, and even though they may not be able to squeeze your hand back, that does not mean they don’t know you are there. Many seniors also can benefit from light massage.  Remember though touch is not appropriate for everyone, and be sure to know if it something they would be comfortable with.

Music – Music can be soothing and even healing, and rarely offends.  Often times hymns seniors grew up with are favorites. Especially for the very religious, music can even have a healing effect. Be careful however to only play songs of hope and spirit, as opposed to songs played in funeral homes.  Again, watch body language to see how the person responds to the music you choose.

Reading – Reading to someone who can’t speak is another way to “be there” with them.  What did they like to read in the past?  Sit comfortably, read aloud at a soothing rate, and as always, watch the body language. Though there may not be a physical reaction, the person is likely to know you are there with them because they know your voice.

For more information, please visit: http://www.eldercarelink.com/Other-Resources/Communicating-With-Elders-Who-Cant-Speak.htm

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