[Podcast] Episode 1: Stages of Alzheimer's & Ways to Communicate

Sunrise Senior Living  |  November 9, 2016
The Senior Caregiver Podcast
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In this episode, we are joined by Rita Altman, senior vice president of Memory Care & Program Services at Sunrise, where we talk about the different stages of Alzheimer’s and tips for how you can remain meaningfully engaged with your loved one by using verbal and non-verbal communication techniques, based on the Validation Method.

Take a look below at a few highlights from the show, and be sure to listen to the full episode here.

The stages of Alzheimer’s (1:20):Experts have used different models to explain the typical stages of Alzheimer’s – some use the five stage model, while others use a seven stage model, and some use a simple three-stage model (early, moderate, late). Whatever stage you are referencing, it’s important to realize that not every person will experience the exact same symptoms or progress at the same rate.

There is a difference between normal, age-related brain changes and changes that might signify more serious memory loss. The signs and symptoms you should be aware of can be found on the Alzheimer’s website. If you’re noticing things on this list, don’t deny it and schedule a visit to the doctor. Make notes and include examples of symptoms your loved one is experiencing prior to the appointment.

Late stage Alzheimer’s – is it still possible to connect with your loved one? (6:06):In this stage, basic abilities such as eating, walking and sitting up become virtually impossible, however, it is still possible to connect with your loved one on some level.

You may not feel or sense that they are connecting with you, but that does not mean you should not try to connect and comfort them. Sometimes, just talking with your loved one and letting them know you are there will be enough. Consider trying to connect with them through sensory connections. This might be using their favorite lotion or holding up a rose to their nose so they can enjoy the scent because they’ve always maintained a rose garden.

Validation method techniques (8:37):First and foremost, it’s so important to center. Take a few deep breaths – this will do amazing things to help reduce your stress level. From there, make sure you are on the same physical level as your loved one. Face to face, looking into their eyes and approaching them from the front, not the back or side.

Calibrate to how your loved one is feeling. For instance, if they seem very sad and are looking down at the floor, you wouldn’t want to approach them in an upbeat tone. Instead, validate their feelings, go to where they are feeling and acknowledge the way the feel. Then, use the validation technique of rephrasing. This is where you’ll rephrase what they are saying/feeling by repeating the gist of their comment in a similar tone and rhythm, and then have a conversation about why they are feeling sad. In some cases, this may help your loved one open up to you.

Acknowledging their feelings and encouraging your loved one to express their emotions is key to the Validation Method. Join your loved one with memory loss on their journey.

Episode resources:

Future episodes:
Have a question or topic you’d like to see covered in a future episode? Send us an email! Like what you hear? We’d love for you to leave a review on iTunes to help bring this resource to more families.