Communicating when a person is non-responsive

Communicating when a person is non-responsive           By Lori La Bey

Communicating with a non-responsive person can be frustrating for family, friends, and staff.  How do you communicate with a person who appears uninterested or unable to communicate with you? 

I have found taking my Mother’s face in my hands works very well.  This is the same thing I would do with a small child who is sad, upset, or ill.  I would listen to them tell me what is wrong; and cradle their face by having my ring and pinky fingers gently hold their jaw line while letting my other fingers lightly touch their face.  I would use my thumbs to caress their cheeks as I spoke to them.   

Remember, long – term memory is in place, so as caregiver’s we need to go back to what would comfort them when they were young. We can use touch and not speak at all.  When doing this your physical connection will emanate through you to them.  Note how you are coming across.  Are you being loving and caring, or harsh and brash?  You may want to sing or hum a song they liked for whatever time period they are in.  Look into their eyes and read their lips.  What are they trying to tell you?  What brings them joy and peace?  Many times people can comprehend what we are saying, but cannot communicate with us the way they used to.  The way we are used to.  It’s important to treat a non-responsive person with dignity and respect at every stage of the disease.  No one likes being talked down too, so we must analysis each situation on its own merits; and look at what we can change and control and that would be us.

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