Alzheimer’s and Communication Strategies
Caregiving for a loved one with a degenerative neurological disorder comes with many unique challenges. One of those challenges that may go overlooked is communication. How can we, as caregivers, communicate effectively with our loved ones whose minds and memories are not the same? In today’s blog, we want to go over three different strategies that we hope can make this aspect of caregiving more manageable.
Degenerative neurological disorders impact the brain in complex ways. As a result, you may notice your loved one starting to forget some everyday things. At first, symptoms of forgetfulness may not seem too difficult to manage, because your loved one may forget words, items, or repeat themselves numerous times, and many people in the early stages are able to participate in everyday social activities. As the disease progresses, your loved one’s ability to communicate decreases rather drastically, and they will require more care.
Here are some communication tips:
- Be patient: Do not readily correct your loved one whenever they are in error or if they cannot recall something immediately. This is especially relevant for early symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Be patient with them and give them a chance to express themselves how they want. Your loved one can sense the tone in your voice and whether or not you are aggravated or annoyed. Make sure you respond kindly, and if it is appropriate, help them find the right word. But do not assume that they aren’t able unless they directly ask for help. Also remember to encourage them if they are having difficulty, but do not treat them like a child. Preserve their dignity.
- Ask simple questions, be direct: If you know your loved one is having a difficult time communicating, it can be difficult for them to answer open-ended questions, like “How are you feeling today?” Instead, try to ask more direct, simple questions that can be answer with a yes or no, e.g. “Are you hungry right now?” That being said, this involves you to pay attention to your loved one’s body language and emotions if they are unable to express themselves clearly. Paying attention to these non-verbal cues can often give you clear insights into how a person is feeling. And if it is easier, use visual cues so you can convey information to your loved one. For example, if you want to involve them in engaging activities, like painting, show them the paint and brushes. They may likely understand.
- Validate their Feelings: Often, people with a degenerative neurological disorder can experience delusions or hold false beliefs that do not correspond with actual events in the world. If you ever experience this with your loved one, it is easy to dismiss them or to tell them that whatever they are experiencing is not true. But, do not tell them that. While their beliefs may not correspond to what is happening in the world, their experiences are real and valid. For example, if your loved one believes that someone has ran off with the money in their wallet, but you know this isn’t true, tell them that you will figure out the problem for them. These responses are called “therapeutic lies” and are meant to help calm your loved one down and to make situations better so they do not react negatively.
We hope that these tips have given you some ideas on how to better communicate and respond to your loved one who has Alzheimer’s or any related dementia. If you have any more questions, then please call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website!