Sunday, November 28, 2021

Williams’ Ten Tips

Dr. Christine Williams shared a full list of ten tips that she developed during her C.A.R.E. intervention, and we couldn’t squeeze them all into the February issue of Boca magazine. Though her communication tips were developed for dementia patients and their caregivers, they can be utilized to improve communication in any relationship. 

1. Share news of the day

“A lot of these [strategies] are just how the caregiver can give to the person with dementia, not expecting anything back. Like sharing news of the day, or being in a conversation that might seem one sided but in the back of their mind hoping or wishing that there would be some engagement. And you’re going to be rewarded.”

2. Expectant waiting

“You don’t have to drown the person out with your one-sided conversation. Silences are good. They’re okay. In everyday life, we hate silences, but allowing a silence with someone with dementia is really important to give them a chance to have a thought. They’ll be delayed processing. If you say something, they’re still thinking about it when you want to go on to the next thing.”

3. Connect

“Communicating is more than talking or exchanging information. There’s something going on nonverbally, especially between a couple. Many of the people with dementia were very affectionate, they wanted to hold hands or kiss, and so it was appreciating what is there. … Continue to have hope and continue to engage with that person.”

4. Search for ways to communicate

“One of the couples communicated by singing. They knew the words to all the songs from their era. She had a hard time expressing herself, but when he would start with one of the popular songs–and they were good, they could both sing–immediately her face lit up, and she knew all the words to the song. That’s also not unusual, that people can remember music even when they’re having difficulty with speech. Different part of the brain.” 

5. Accept their story

“If the person with dementia started, the other person would inevitably say ‘no, that’s wrong.’ Even people without dementia do that. … Give this person the respect of not interrupting and not challenging their story, because it’s more important for their self esteem and for the relationship than getting it right. … We all want to be right. It doesn’t matter most of the time.”

6. Share memories

“Rather than say ‘do you remember,’ just share the memory. If you want to talk and reminisce about a memory, offer it like a gift. Tell the story: ‘this is something I remember about what we did together, what we did with the children,’ with no expectations, and the other person may get involved in the conversation and that may jog their memory.” 

7. Tell stories

“Tell shared stories, just everyday stories to include the person. What happens so often is they’re not included in the conversation. Because they can’t keep up, then people don’t make that effort to involve them at all.”

8. Create a caring environment

“Sometimes they so desperately wanted their spouse to remember things, they’d say ‘okay, what are the names of our children? What are the names of our grandchildren?’ they had a whole test they went through which was not helpful at all, that you might have to fail a test. … Creating a predictable, supportive environment, where they are not being corrected or ignored, those are things that you can do that help encourage the relationship.”

9. Give compassionate care

“If you are giving physical care, give it compassionately. … Notice in yourself as a spouse: how does your voice sound to them, and what does it sound like? Is it compassionate? Is it impatient, is it loving, or disrespectful?”

10. Delight in unexpected responses

“There will be unexpected breakthroughs. Most people talk about that, that they were so surprised that their spouse said or did something, so treasure those moments and appreciate them as a gift”

James Biagiotti
James Biagiotti is the web editor at Boca magazine and a native of Boca Raton. He is an avid music fan who spends far too much time listening to, dissecting, and traveling to see his favorite bands. He is also, unfortunately, a devoted Miami Dolphins fan.

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