Communication Strategies and Alzheimer’s

Communication Strategies and Alzheimer’s

Tips to Better Communicate with Your Loved One

As degenerative neurological disorders progress, these diseases impact on the brain impacts communication and processing skills. As a result, you, as a family caregiver, may have a difficult time communicating with your loved one who has Alzheimer’s or any other related dementia. While it may be difficult to find ways to communicate effectively with your loved one, there are strategies to ease communication.

Communication strategies will depend on a few factors:

  • The stage at which your loved one’s condition has progressed
  • Their mood and energy level at any given day
  • What is in the surrounding environment

We will keep these three factors in mind as we go through some communication strategies:

  • Keep their experience in mind: Your loved one will often feel confused, irritated, anxious, or depressed. These are common symptoms of degenerative neurological diseases and must be kept in mind whenever you interact with your loved one. Additionally, things in the surrounding environment can often be distracting for people with dementia, so communication under certain circumstances can be impacted. Always try to be empathetic and understand that many variables can influence your loved one’s ability to understand what you say or recall an event.
  • Do not make assumptions[1]: Do not make assumptions about your loved one’s ability to communicate. Making assumptions can lead you to treat them differently and sometimes act in ways that can offend them. Disease like Alzheimer’s have unique effects on individual people, so every case is different.
  • Keep it simple: You should keep phrases and questions simple. Again, depending on what stage of the disease your loved one is in, their comprehension levels will be impacted in varying degrees. For example, if your loved one is only in the early stage of Alzheimer’s, they may still be able to hold normal conversations. But if they are in the middle to late stages of the disorder, the likelihood that they can maintain a more detailed conversation is low. As a result, you should keep questions simple to understand, often phrasing questions so they can be answered in a “yes” or a “no”, rather than asking open-ended questions.
  • Be aware of body language: For example, just because your loved one is less able to express themselves in spoken conversation does not mean that they cannot interpret your facial expressions. Be sure to smile at them and to be inviting. A large percentage of communication is unspoken, namely how we conduct ourselves and the expressions we hold on our faces. Also, be aware of the tone of your voice. Even if you are feeling aggravated or annoyed, try to restrain that as it can cause your loved one to also become aggravated, confused, or experience other negative emotions.
  • Be patient: Sometimes communicating with your loved one will require a lot of patience. Your loved one may repeat themselves a few times, and you may find yourself answering questions you have already answered. In this case, try very hard to be kind and just answer the question or repeat whatever it was you said again. Another helpful strategy is to rephrase what you said rather than to repeat it the same way.[2] Remind yourself that your loved one is not doing this on purpose and it is a symptom of their condition.

We hope that you find these tips helpful. If you have any other questions, please call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website!

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