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CE Article-Dementia Care Communication: A Toolbox for Professionals and Families

Heather McKay, MS, OT/L, Michaela Mangrum Hanzaker, MS, OTR/L

Earn .1 AOTA CEU (1.25 NBCOT PDU/1 contact hour)

Dementia causes changes in multiple areas of the brain that contribute to problems with communication, which may add to caregiver burden. Both health care professionals and family caregivers can use a toolbox of communication strategies to improve interactions with people who have dementia, thereby lessening caregiver stress. These strategies are not, however, commonly used or taught in health care settings. Occupational therapists have long evaluated and treated people with dementia, but they may feel unprepared to train others in the strategies that improve communication. To support occupational therapy practitioners in the role of educator, this article first reviews areas of the brain involved in dementia-related communication impairments and then presents strategies to improve interactions with people who have dementia. The communication strategies described here include a focus on starting communication with a positive approach and practical tips that focus on not just what to say but how to say it, which occupational therapy practitioners can use and teach to other caregivers supporting these clients. Seven steps to a positive physical approach and specific strategies using different types of communication are provided to improve participation in activities and social conversations, and to reduce distress with people who have dementia.

Learning Objectives

  1. Recognize the relationship between communication and quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers.
  2. Identify the impact of brain damage in areas of memory, language, and impulse control that affect people with dementia.
  3. Recognize common pitfalls in the quality of caregivers' communication that can result in resistance to care.
  4. Identify seven key components in a positive physical approach to working with people with dementia.
  5. Identify effective communication strategies for interacting with people with dementia to promote function, have a conversation, and manage distress.

Learning Level: Entry
Target audience: Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants
Content: Category 1: Domain of OT

Reference Information:
McKay, H., Hanzaker, M., (2013). Dementia Care Communication: A Toolbox for Professionals and Families. OT Practice, 18(2), CE-1–CE-8

Additional Details:

SKU: CEA0213
Product Type: Download
Year Published: 2013

  • Practitioner
  • Continuing Education
  • Brain & Cognition
  • Geriatrics
  • Continuing Education
  • Productive Aging
  • Geriatrics
  • Dementia
  • Communication
  • Caregiver