Along the caregiving journey (and life in general) we may underestimate the profound impact that asking questions can have. Questions possess the ability to heal emotional wounds, deepen relationships, nurture a greater sense of love and empathy, and help us to adapt to the changing needs of our loved ones. This is true even if they are living with neurocognitive disorders.
Building Bridges of Understanding
Asking questions serves as a bridge to gain a deeper understanding of our loved ones. Through open-ended questions, we invite them to share their thoughts, emotions, and experiences, encouraging reminiscence and life review which is beneficial throughout life, but is especially transformative in older ages. If a loved one is experiencing changes in memory or cognition, we can adapt our questioning approach. For instance, instead of open-ended questions that require elaborate responses, we can frame questions that elicit simple responses but still convey our love. For example, "May I hold your hand?" or "Do you feel my love for you?" can provide comfort and reassurance.
Healing and Empathy
When our loved ones are facing challenging situations or experiencing a variety of negative emotions, asking compassionate questions can provide solace. By actively listening to their responses, we show them our love. Even individuals with cognitive changes can benefit from this approach. Though their responses may differ, the simple act of asking itself conveys a profound sense of compassion and understanding. The questions we ask are therefore gentle reminders of our presence and commitment to our loved ones’ wellbeing.
Meaningful relationships thrive on connection, and asking questions can help deepen that bond. Try asking your loved ones about hopes, desires, and fears. Asking questions allows us to also honor the individuality and identity of our loved ones. It acknowledges their thoughts and preferences affirming their dignity and autonomy. Simple questions like "What brings you joy?" or "How would you like to spend this day?" enable us to adapt activities and provide experiences that align with their interests while showing respect. Such inquiries encourage introspection and self-expression. Even if your loved one is living with dementia, they can still experience joy, love, and connection. We can adapt our questions to their abilities, focusing on the present moment and finding new ways to engage with them. In this way, we help create a safe and supportive environment that fosters connection and enables us to continue savoring our time together.
In the realm of relationships, asking questions while providing our time for deep listening holds immense power. It creates the space necessary for healing and honoring the identity and dignity of our loved ones. Whether facing cognitive changes or not, the act of asking questions remains a vital tool in our quest for understanding and empathy. Let us embrace the powerful potential of questions, adapting our approach to suit each individual's needs. By doing so, we can nurture a legacy of love, compassion, and connection with those who matter most to us.