Body Language

Body Language That Says "I Love You"
father and daughter hugging
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How can you get along better with your loved one? Let your body language do the talking. Humans read nonverbal communication far more quickly and strongly than they believe words they hear.

Try using these wordless ways to express your love and affection to the person in your care:

Smile when you talk.
Your relaxed demeanor speaks volumes, just as a furrowed brow and tense expression can put your loved one on edge.

Mirror your loved one's behavior.
Couples in love do this unconsciously, but any pair can feel more connected when they're doing things in synch. Copy your loved one's behavior (in a subtle way), sitting in the same position, taking sips of tea at the same time, moving your hands in similar ways.

Touch when you talk.
Many older adults are touch-deprived because they don't receive a lot of physical contact. Even long-married couples and family members living in close quarters can fall out of the habit of basic touch. Yet touch is vital because it's reassuring and connecting, and therefore calming. Try putting your hand on your loved one's back or knee as you talk. Touch doesn't have to be long lasting to be deeply felt -- and to improve mood (for both of you!).

Hug like you mean it.
Especially for older adults who have dementia, a hug that lasts a few beats longer than usual -- five seconds is a good rule of thumb -- is less startling and more comforting.

Hold your loved one's gaze.
Looking directly into someone's eyes signals that you're interested in him or her, and that you care. It's natural for speakers to have an urge to look away after about three seconds, but when you hold the gaze a little longer, the other person receives an unconscious sensation of being cared for.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio