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The Keys to Connection Three-­Part Series When Engaging with a Loved One or Client with Memory Impai

We hope you found parts one and two of our series, The Keys to Connection, beneficial. Many thanks to Katie and Elissa of Live Connected for featuring us. If you missed the first two installments to this three­-part series, you can find them by clicking here.

Tips for facilitating expression:

Identify repetition as an invitation to explore. ​As your conversation unfolds, your client or loved one may speak or inquire repetitively about a person or place that is gone. Try to avoid panicking or fibbing. Very frequently, there is a real need being expressed, and immediate redirection will fail. Focus on the emotion, and try to ask open-­ended questions. For instance, “you seem to be thinking a lot about your mother . . . you must really miss her. Will you tell me more about her? What do you miss the most? Is there ever a time when . . . ” Keeping the conversation going will help to give clues as to what your loved one may be seeking. For instance, mothers can represent comfort, affection, safety, structure, or even work (for those who cared for them in later life). Following your loved one or client’s lead may bring you to clarity.

Honor the individual's need to express emotions. ​As caregivers, we are trained to fix, but sometimes there are feelings that simply need to be expressed and grieved. This can be particularly difficult when we feel accused. While it is painful and uncomfortable to field “negative” emotions from those we care about, it is necessary for those feelings to be experienced and shared. Listening with honesty builds trust. It’s acceptable to say, “I wish I could fix this-- ­­this is hard,” or “I’m sorry I don’t understand, but I’m here with you,” or even, “I can see you need some space. I will be back to check in on you in a few minutes. I truly want this time with you when you’re ready.” Each of these statements honors the individual experience and creates a space for grieving and expression.

Foster creative outlets for expression. ​When spoken words fail, foster opportunities for expression through writing, art, music, rhythm and even simple motion. Journaling, poetry, storytelling and other forms of written narrative can provide opportunities for individuals struggling with word­-finding or self­-disclosure. They can work at their own pac