Anna’s elderly mother, Donna, recently suffered a stroke, leaving her unable to speak. Although Anna worked hard to care for Donna’s needs, they would often be frustrated with each other as Donna could only make small gestures that Anna simply couldn’t understand. Donna seemed even more frustrated when any visitors like senior care assistants arrived. Anna really wanted to figure out what was happening with her mother.
Once the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease robbed Peter’s ability to speak, he would grow extremely agitated at family caregivers and senior care assistants whenever they tried to help. This put him into a deep depression because he couldn’t even communicate his basic needs, and the guessing games they had to play at every interaction were growing tiresome.
Mindy just wanted to make sure her elderly grandmother was being properly cared for. Alzheimer’s disease made it difficult for her grandmother to speak. As the family caregiver, everything seemed so overwhelming and Mindy was never sure if she was meeting her grandmother’s wants and needs. She always felt worried and stressed thinking she wasn’t doing a good job.
Each one of these profiles reflects a common thread—care of a non-verbal elderly loved one. When people have relied on speaking to communicate their thoughts for so long, it’s very difficult to become non-verbal. A number of conditions can cause an elderly person to lose the power of speech, leaving them frustrated, stressed and scared. Caregivers share in the frustration because there are only so many concepts that simple gestures can convey.
One important tool that many family caregivers are discovering is patient communication boards, like those used in hospitals. These boards are usually colorfully printed charts or lists that have pictures as well as labels. The non-verbal person can point to ideas or sentences on the board that they really want to say. The family caregiver or senior care assistant will then immediately know what to do and how to help.
Some of the most basic communication boards include a list of letters for finger spelling. They also include simple pictures and words for the most basic needs, such as hungry, thirsty, need blanket/ pillow, lights off/on, sit up, lie down and toilet, for example. Some communication boards include emotional state, such as frustrated, sad, sleepy, dizzy, and in pain. Basic phrases are also often represented, such as stop, continue, yes, no, thank you, please explain and more.
If the elderly person is experiencing chronic pain, there are some communication boards that help them communicate this. The board shows a picture of the human body as well as a scale of 1 to 10. The elderly person would indicate where the pain is and what it rates on the pain scale. Some boards even provide detailed words for the pain, such as sharp, dull, stinging, or doing better. There may even be other descriptions of health conditions such as short of breath, dizzy, nauseated, is tender and numb.
With non-verbal elderly people, communication boards may be the best way for them to get their thoughts across to family caregivers and senior care assistants so that there is a lot less frustration and anxiety on both sides.
If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in LaVista, NE, please contact the caring staff at Seniors Helping Seniors® Greater Omaha at (402) 215-0308 today.