As Alzheimer’s disease progresses communication can become difficult. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s you may start to notice changes in the ability to communicate. Some differences you might notice could include difficulty finding the right words, using familiar words repeatedly, inventing new words to describe things, losing train of thought, speaking less often, using curse words, relying on gestures, or even reverting to speaking in a native language. Not only do Alzheimer’s patients have trouble expressing their own thoughts and emotions, but also have trouble understanding others. Below you will find some ways that you can improve your communication with your loved one.
To help a person with Alzheimer’s communicate better, you need to have much patience and understanding. It is important to be a good listener. Here are some things you can do to encourage your loved one to communicate with you:
- Be patient and supportive. Let your loved one know you are listening and trying to understand them.
- Show interest in them and keep good eye contact.
- Offer comfort and reassurance to your loved one if they are having trouble communicating. Encourage your loved one to continue to explain thoughts.
- Be careful to not interrupt. Give your loved one time to think about and describe what they are trying to say.
- Avoid criticizing and correcting. Do not tell the person what he or she is saying is incorrect.
- Repeat what your loved one says if it helps to clarify his or her thoughts.
- Avoid arguing. If your loved one says something you do not agree with just let it be.
- Propose a guess. If your loved one can’t find the right words try guessing the right ones.
- Encourage unspoken communication. Ask your loved one to use gestures if you are having a hard time understanding.
- Focus on feelings behind the words. The emotions being expressed are often more important than what is being said.
When you are trying to communicate with someone with Alzheimer’s disease there are things you can do to help your loved one better understand you. Here are some tips to best communicate with an Alzheimer’s patient:
- Identify yourself. Make sure to approach your loved one from the front and tell him or her who you are. Call your loved one by name.
- Use simple words and sentences. Try to avoid lengthy stories or requests. Speak concisely and stick to the point.
- Speak slowly and clearly. Be aware of your tone of voice. A lower tone can be more calming and relaxing.
- Give directions one step at a time. Break down tasks into simple steps and only give them one at a time.
- Ask one question at a time. Do not overwhelm your loved one with too many questions all at once.
- Wait for a response patiently. Know that it may take your loved one a little extra time to process and respond to what you have said.
- Rephrase information or questions. If your loved one does not respond, wait for a bit and then rephrase what you have said.
- Turn questions into answers. You can say things like “The bathroom is right here,” rather than, “Do you need to use the bathroom?”
- Avoid confusing expressions. Alzheimer’s patients can take things literally so make sure to describe the action you desire them to do rather than using confusing phrases.
- Avoid vague statements and emphasize key words. Stress the word in the sentence that you want to draw attention to.
- Turn negatives into positives. Instead of saying “Don’t” do something, suggest another option to do in its place.
- Use gestures. You can demonstrate a task or point to an item you want your loved one to use. You can even begin the task for him or her.
- Reduce background noise. Try to reduce noise from things such as a TV or radio. These can be distractions and make it harder for your loved one to hear you.
- Write things down. Try using written notes as reminders for your loved one when spoken word seems difficult to retain.
- Treat your loved one with respect. Do not talk down to the person as if he or she is not there.
Communicating with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease is not an easy task. Above all else be patient and let your loved one know how much they are loved and cared for.