Helping the Alzheimer’s dementia caregiver overcome communication barriers.

Communication is often the earliest behavior changes and biggest frustration while caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia. If this is your ‘everyday’, stay and learn how the Caregiver Cards approach may help.

What is one of the biggest frustrations that Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers face while providing care? The answer is communication!

Communication is more than talking and listening; it deals with relationships. If Alzheimer’s and dementia are greatly affected by an ability to communicate then one can infer that the relationship between the affected person and caregiver would be greatly affected as well. With a decline in language, the caregiver usually feels a decline in the relationship. This can lead to a hidden danger of viewing a loss of communication as a loss of a person even though they are still here. This often leads to isolation, loneliness, frustration, loss of quality of life, in short, caregiver burnout. This is dangerous to both caregiver and the person receiving care.

This is the hardship that Barbara Worthington, founder and owner of Caregiver Cards, is determined to reduce. Barbara had firsthand knowledge of the joys and challenges that come with being a caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s and dementia, while caring for both of her grandparents. Additionally, one of Barbara’s daughters has been diagnosed as having Autism. Being a parent to a child with Autism, opened up another channel of communication, picture prompts. It was these experiences, together, that gave way to the idea that persons affected by neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and related dementia's, could communicate easier using illustrated, picture cue cards.

Caregiver Cards works based on the principle that people with Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurological disorders, live in a world that contains Too Much Information for them to process without becoming frustrated, angry, or upset.

The solution is found when we reduce the thinking needed to get the message across, and when we slow down to communicate one step at a time causing less confusion. Caregiver Cards design is of one clear, large picture with a one-word or short phrase prompt. It offers a clear and direct message to communicate with. It encourages the caregiver to keep the command short and sweet as well, as to not overwhelm the individual.

Additionally, most of us are retain information easier when it’s offered visually, not just verbally. The same is said for those living with Alzheimer’s, because visual processing is retained easier in the brain (half of the human brain is devoted directly or indirectly to vision). Each of Caregiver Cards illustrations were tested prior to adding text. If the illustration elicited the correct response, then it was approved and added to the product.

Reading is still a trait that is retained for persons living with Alzheimer’s for most and sometimes through the entire course of the disease. Reading is an auto-learned habit, or second nature. It involves procedural or implicit memory. Think of it as the "knowing how." It's the unconscious memory of how to do things created by repeating, or practicing, an activity over and over again so it occurs automatically, like reading. If the persons with Alzheimer’s was literate as a young child, there is good reason to believe they should still be able to read through much of the disease, and therefore read and understand Caregivers Cards prompts and cue words.

Lastly, Caregiver Cards offers an opportunity for more engagement and socialization. Caregiver Cards can be used as an activity, as a conversation starter, as a way to reminisce or share moments together. Caregiver Cards allows for the focus to be on what we have, not what is lost. The goal is to make a connection, to be engaged!

Caregiver Cards is a series of 155 illustrations printed on 70 double-sided glossy, durable and wipeable cards used for picture based communication and visual support for use by caregivers for communication, prompts, cues, orientation, and daily schedules with individuals who may have Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, neurological disorders, stroke, traumatic brain injury, or related memory, speech, hearing, autism, and developmental disorders.

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