Non-Verbal Prompts – Six How-To’s

Non-Verbal Prompt #1 – Facial Expression
First, let’s look at some how-to’s regarding your facial expression as a tool to increase ADL independence. Your whole emotional tone is reflected in your face. Consider a day that you were late for work, and you have a headache. The brow ridge of your forehead is furrowed, or creases. You are helping Mary to wash her face. Upon looking at your face as you speak, Mary may interpret the intense creases in your forehead as indicating that you are dissatisfied with her. What do you feel that this does to her motivation to trying ADL independence?

Question #1:
Your whole emotional tone is reflected where? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Answer Booklet.

Your facial expression really goes a long way to create or not create an environment of success for your resident. You reflect to your resident feelings that are positive, neutral, or negative. Your facial expression goes a long way to encourage and support your resident’s ADL independence, or discourage it.

Make it a habit to glance at your expression in the resident’s dresser or bathroom mirror. You be the judge. Ask yourself, “What am I reflecting to this resident as they perform this ADL?” “What am I reflecting to the rest of the world, as far as that goes?” What do you see as you glance at your face?

So what can you do, if you feel that you need to change?

Here is technique, or how-to, number one. As you look in the mirror, divide your face into the upper brow region and the lower half, your mouth and cheeks. As you look at yourself in the mirror, first look at your upper face, your brow. Is it furrowed, perhaps indicating to your resident stress or displeasure? Or is it smooth? With age, unless we are movie stars who have had face lifts, we all have wrinkles, lines, and creases. I am not talking about natural aging or character lines. I am talking about the lines that you create yourself by tensing your brow ridge. Experiment with this, and note the dramatic difference in what you project by tensing up and pulling together your eyebrows.

Now, relax your eyebrows and concentrate on flattening or relaxing your brow ridge. Raise your eyebrows slightly. It almost feels like smiling with your forehead, because it reflects calmness in those muscles.

Furrowed, tense brows to your resident reflect an unfriendly, stressed person who seems unapproachable and unwilling to really help, no matter what their words say.

Question #2:
To reflect calm in the upper portion of your face, concentrate on doing what with your brow ridge?

Now, let’s look at the lower half of your face, your mouth and cheeks. Have you ever received an insincere smile from someone? Yes, unfortunately we all have. Like the fast food clerk that hates his or her job and hands you your bag of food through the drive up window, smiling with an all too toothy smile, while blurting out, “Have a nice day!!” What’s wrong with their smile? The corners of his or her mouth are turned up, so doesn’t that qualify as a smile? Why does it come across as painfully insincere? Well, it’s because the smile is not reflected in their eyes.

Try another experiment with a mirror. Lower your lids to one-quarter or one-half of the way closed. Then smile. You look something like Bugs Bunny, don’t you? The top half of your face doesn’t match the bottom half. Think about how receiving this insincere Bugs Bunny-type smile feels to your resident as they are doing their best to put the button through the hole as they dress. If your eyes don’t match your smile, they know in their heart that you don’t really mean what you are saying.

Now look in the mirror and think of something wonderful, maybe a rainbow or a beautiful summer day. Or, think of someone or something that you really care about, maybe a car, a dog, or a significant other. Look in the mirror. Look straight into your eyes and smile. Do you see what your eyes are doing? They are open naturally, with a warm energy coming out. They match your smile.

That sincerity is what creates the kind of bonding relationship between a care giver and a resident. This helps the resident to see that you respect their efforts to risk trying and failing. They see that you really care. It’s easy to have someone do something for you, because you don’t have to risk failure. Obviously, none of us want to fail. We all want to succeed and have the feeling of being accepted just as much as our residents do.

Question #3: A Bugs Bunny insincere smile occurs when your what does not match your what?

In your ALF, it’s up to you to provide that feeling of acceptance and support for your resident. You have to encourage them to try, to cheer and root them on with a warm caring expression of support on your face.

Non-Verbal Prompt #2, #3, #4, #5 and #6 go to Geriatric & Aging Course

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