Verbal and Non-verbal Communication with Dementia Patients – Interview with Specialist

Do you know someone who’s dealing with dementia? If so, you might be struggling with how to effectively and lovingly communicate. We spoke with a specialist in Houston who has some advice.

Brian:         Do you know someone who’s dealing with dementia? My name is Brian Spitz, president of Big State Home Buyers. And today, we’re talking with Cyndee Frey, who is a specialist in those who are dealing with dementia. Thank you very much for joining us today.

Cyndee:     Thank you, Brian. My business is Dementia Remembers, the name of my business. And I specialize in demential care and communication. I’m certified in the validation method of communication, which is a series of verbal and non-verbal indicator communication techniques. We help people understand how to communicate differently.

Brian:         And how long have you been in that field?

Cyndee:     Oh, gosh. I’ve been a nurse for thirty-four years. I started working with seniors in 1999, and specializing in dementia about fifteen years ago.

Brian:         Okay. So a long time. And there’s been a lot that’s developed in the understanding of dementia in the last fifteen years.

Cyndee:     Yes. There has been.

Verbal and Non-verbal Communication with Dementia Patients

Brian:         Tell me about your particular niche. What is it? You do verbal and non-verbal communication. Tell me how that plays with or that works with your clients. What does that mean?

Cyndee:     When people have dementia, and there are a lot of things that cause dementia. We tend to think of Alzheimer’s, and that causes the majority of dementia. But when people, as they progress through the stages, they lose their verbal skills or they lose their vocabulary. And it’s very interesting to, if you look at studies about communication, getting the message comes through, I’m not a big numbers person, but these numbers just astound me. Seven percent is in the words that are spoken.

Brian:         Seven?

Cyndee:     Seven percent.

Brian:         Wow.

Cyndee:     Thirty-nine percent is in tone of voice and then fifty-five (does that add up to a hundred?), fifty-five percent is body language. And when you think about how we first gather information and you look at an infant and small child, we’re gathering information about our environment. And we communicate long before we have words.

Brian:         Right.

Cyndee:     So when words start to go away, we have to learn how to communicate with someone who has dementia through their tone of voice, their facial expressions, through their body language. It’s a little counter-intuitive to the way we normally communicate. But it’s fascinating. It’s just fascinating.

Stages of Dementia and How They Communicate

Brian:         And so I guess that would bring the premise that in the stages of dementia, that would be certain stages, I assume, even if people lose their language skills, they still have the ability to demonstrate what it is that they’re thinking or feeling.  Or what their needs are.

Cyndee:     Uh-hmm.

Brian:         So.

Cyndee:     They do. I was working with a woman whose mother was in a nursing home. And she was telling me she hated to visit. She said, “I just hate to see my mother like that. She doesn’t talk any more. I don’t know how to visit. And when I go see her, she reaches out and she does this, with my sleeve. She just feels the material. She doesn’t do that to anybody else.”

And she was really upset by that. I said, when I look at that, what that says to me is she recognizes you. She may not know you’re her daughter. But she knows you’re someone who is very important to her because you’re the only person that she reaches out to. And so then we talked about how she could talk with her. Make sure she’s holding her hand. Make sure she’s making eye contact, even if her mother isn’t looking at her. That she’s speaking directly to her.

Brian:         Uh-hmm.

Cyndee:     So it’s those types of things that, you know, looking at behaviors and what they can mean.

Brian:         Wow.

Cyndee:     Yeah.

How do People Find This Dementia Communication Service

Brian:         That’s a very interesting, very specialized topic. How do people find you?

Cyndee:     Primarily it’s been word of mouth. People who know me, because I’ve been working with seniors for quite a while. And I’m being asked more and more to do presentations in assisted living communities, to groups of people that, churches, that sort of thing. That’s how people find out about me. It’s basically word of mouth.

Brian:         Do you have a website?

Cyndee:     I do.

Brian:         What is the website?

Cyndee:     It is

Brian:         Okay. Really fascinating subject. What I’d like to talk about in our next video is how people can use your knowledge of dementia in assessing their home. Because at Big State Home Buyers, our largest segment of clientele are people who have either aged out of the home, people who have inherited a property, people who are dealing with the needs of their parents and their long-term care.

And to, ultimately, with all of that, a lot of times, the house needs to be sold. Both for the resources to do the long-term care, and simply because there’s no further use for it. And so it’s a specialty of ours and the more I can educate myself and my staff on these services, the more we can be of help to our clients.

So thank you for joining us today.

Cyndee:     Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

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