March 30

Change Your Game: Communicating With The Cognitively Impaired

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Change Your Game: Communicating With The Cognitively Impaired

We have all heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Unfortunately, we may have also heard someone with cognitive impairment described as ‘crazy’. This could not be more inaccurate and offensive. In terms of communicating with loved ones, someone with cognitive impairment is more than likely trying to find a way to get through to you in the same way that you're trying to do for them. You owe them the basic human decency of trying to cut their challenges to communicate with them. When your loved one was diagnosed with dementia, you could say that was a ‘game changer’ in your relationship with them. So, change your game!

If you are still responding to a person suffering from dementia with the same expectations of logic that you had before, it can feel like you’re beating your head against the wall. I will tell you that it's not the wall's fault if your head hurts! Talking to someone with cognitive impairment in a skilled nursing environment will be a true challenge, especially if you choose to accept your role in the care process. That’s right, as a loved one, you have a place on a team that includes professional caregivers. Expect to put in a day’s work, the same as them. Expect to start training and learning a new set of skills. You can begin by observing the following:


Whether you once were or not, you will no longer be the first thing your loved one sees upon waking up in the morning. His or her immediate surroundings will be not only the first but a constant wave of new communication in their new life. When you consider the challenge of having them accept the truth of their ultimate surroundings, helping them exert some basic control over their room can be of great value to them:

  • Simple signs identifying essential locations such as the bathroom door, the exit, the closet or clothing drawers might make a great difference.
  • Did you ever work at a desk or cubicle? How important was it to you to have comforting objects and family photos in your line of sight? That was just to deal with the daily grind. Now consider how much of a relief it will be for your loved one to have such items next to their bed, on their bed or placed prominently on other furniture items.
  • Your visits will be when your true lessons in communication begin. That does not mean you are ‘off the hook’ when you’re not there. In fact, there should be a phone not only ‘on the hook’ but made as accessible as possible with the ability to dial your number just as easily.


We are creatures of habit. Routine gives us comfort in a consistently chaotic world and can empower someone with dementia. Start with how you speak to them, calm and simple. Take note of your reaction to the pace at which your loved one now takes life. They are very likely aware of this. So, try not to show it and instead match step with them.

Not Children

Your loved one is not a child and is not reverting to a childlike state. There will be parallels that will aid in understanding their new behaviors. Observe your own reactions to check yourself and whether or not you are treating them like one. You are not teaching lessons to a growing human. If a loved one has perceived something incorrectly and you find yourself arguing, please stop. Change the subject.

No matter what you have perceived thus far in terms of their output, neither you nor any professional has even the slightest clue as to the activity within that individual. Your consideration of their pace and the things they still grasp will help you acquire some basic knowledge of your loved one's inner activities and awareness.


A person with dementia is likely to be struggling in some way or another with his or her relationship to the world around them. You’re part of that world. Reach out and touch them. Show them that at least one aspect of their environment is not strange and unfamiliar.

Join The Team

The best news of all is that you will be part of a team. Even the most highly trained members will be open to input from others. Each person interacting with your loved one will likely have a specific aspect of care assigned to them. In the event of a crisis, he or she will need everyone to be on their ‘A-game’ to say the very least. The actual definition of a ‘crisis’ in terms of elder care varies just about as greatly as dementia does in terms of how it manifests itself from long-term care situation to another.

The stress our loved ones face must not lead to a disruption in ongoing healthcare, something physical like a fall or possibly a significant psychiatric change if at all possible. A crisis can become cyclical. You are facing a crucial moment in your care for your loved one, and it is a great opportunity for crisis management by an elder care firm. We can bring a new perspective and a professional touch to restore

Archer Law Office Can Help

For More Information Contact this office (609) 842-9200


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