Communicating with Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s
Communicating with a loved one who is afflicted with a degenerative neurological disease can pose some unique challenges. Because of the various ways disorders like Alzheimer’s degrades regions of the brain, many people experience symptom like anxiety, agitation, aggression, and delusions. If you have a loved one experiencing these symptoms, then your interactions with them can often be very negative and unpleasant. Fortunately, there are communication techniques that can help you respond to these situations effectively.
- Acknowledge: If your loved one is agitated or is bothered by something in particular, it is best practice to acknowledge whatever is troubling them, regardless of what the topic is. For instance, if your loved one is agitated about having lost money somewhere (even if he or she hasn’t really lost any money), you can say something like: “I’m sorry that your money is lost. Let me see if there is something I can do about it.” This technique addresses and recognizes your loved one’s displeasure and lets him or her know that someone is listening to them.
- Reassure: Let you loved one know that you are there for them. Considering the above example, whether or not there is actually money missing is beside the point. If you let your loved one know that you are actually concerned about their frustration or agitation, then this goes a step further in recognizing the validity of their experience.
- Redirect: This is a technique to try and distract your loved one from the current experience that is troubling them. You can be creative in how you execute this. For instance, after you’ve followed the first two steps, you can ask your loved one if they want to help you make the bed, if they want to go for a walk with you, or if they would like a snack. This allows them to redirect their mental energy on something else and away from the thoughts that are bothering them.
Hopefully, these techniques will help alleviate your loved one’s negative experiences. Even if these negative experiences are not based on actual facts, their experiences are still very real and deserve recognition. Effective communication helps everybody avoid conflict and frustration, even those who are impacted by a degenerative neurological disorder like Alzheimer’s.
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