Being able to communicate with each other is one of the greatest gifts we have as human beings. Your senior loved one may have a disability or a disease that causes them to communicate a little differently, but that doesn’t mean that the two of you can’t communicating just as often and as meaningfully as you were before. If your loved one has become nonverbal, there are still ways that you can communicate with them. Whether your senior loved one is suffering from the effects of a stroke or from dementia, here are three great ways to consider when addressing someone who is no longer verbal.
1. Use the Five Senses
Because your senior loved one is now nonverbal, they experience the world mostly through their senses: taste, touch, sight, sound, and sometimes smell, so long as smell has not also been taken by dementia. So eat meals with your loved one. Cook them dishes that they used to cook for you. Remember that while your loved one may be nonverbal, you can and do still speak. While you’re cooking with your loved one, talk to them about the dish you are making. Don’t ask questions, just tell a story instead. Watch movies and if possible, go to games and shows with your loved one. Listen to music. Read to your loved one. Talk about your feelings, hopes, the past, tell jokes. Experience art with your nonverbal loved one that means something to the person you know and love inside of them.
2. Change Your Expectations
Don’t try to get the outcome you used to get. Things have changed. People change. You have changed, too. In all the ways that life remains the same now, it has changed just as much. So be patient with your nonverbal loved one, and don’t expect your interactions with them to go a certain way. Some days are better than others, and some ways of communicating are also better. Enjoy the time that you spend with your loved one, and don’t compare one day you spend with them to another. Just because they may not be able to respond to you the way that they used to doesn’t mean you have to stop trying to communicate. Don’t expect an answer, but cherish the moments when you do receive one.
3. Love Them How They Need to Be Loved
We all have different ways, different things that make us feel loved. For some people, getting small, unexpected presents is the best way they feel loved. For others, it’s time spent together or time taken out of one’s day to care for places or things that are special to them. And still others prefer words or physical affection as outward expressions of such a complex feeling. Taking the time to find your loved one’s love translation is the very best way to show that you care, you are paying attention, and you are communicating to the best of your abilities.