Communication Techniques for Family Caregivers
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative neurological disorder. As a result, it impacts cognitive performance, memory, emotions, and a host of other symptoms. Today, we will focus on one of specific symptoms and how family caregivers can manage it: changes in communication.
Because of Alzheimer’s complex effects on the brain, memory, and speech, patients can develop difficulty communicating. Alzheimer’s patients may:
- Have difficulty finding the right words
- Not remembering what some words mean
- Experience problems with attention
- Become frustrated because they are having a difficult time communicating
- Have difficulty with routine events, such as cooking, bathing, or getting dressed.
All of these symptoms provide communication challenges for the Alzheimer’s patient, as well as for their caregiver. Caregivers are often unprepared to respond effectively to situations when their loved one is exhibiting negative behaviors or is in need of something. If you are a family caregiver, there are fortunately some methods that you can practice to help ease communication difficulties with your loved one. Follow these tips below:
(1) Speak clearly and slowly: Sometimes, people with Alzheimer’s can become overwhelmed if too much information is being thrown at them. Speak slowly and clearly, and if you have to, repeat what you said.
(2) Pay attention to your tone of voice: If your loved one is uncommunicative, that does not mean they cannot understand you or interpret your tone of voice. Being a family caregiver can often be a frustrating role, so it is easy to become frustrated and to sound aggravated when communicating. Sometimes, responding in an aggravated tone can cause your loved one to become frustrated, as well, and to react negatively to you. To avoid this, watch out for your tone of voice and how you sound responding to your loved one during your interactions with them.
(3) Keep it simple: Sometimes, people with Alzheimer’s become easily overwhelmed when they are asked multiple questions or questions that are open-ended. This is due to the negative effects Alzheimer’s has on memory and speech. To avoid putting your loved one in a difficult situation like this, especially if your loved one is in the mid- to late-stages of Alzheimer’s, be sure to ask questions one at a time and that can be answered with a “yes” or “no.” This strategy works because it takes the burden off of your loved one to respond to questions at length, which can be difficult for them, and it also helps the caregiver respond to potential problems efficiently. For example, instead of asking “What’s wrong?” when your loved one is agitated, you could ask “Are you hungry?” or “Are you in pain?” to get right to the point. Of course, it may take a few questions before you figure out what it is your loved one wants, but ultimately this can be a great and effective communication strategy.
(4) Do not jump to conclusions: Your loved one may have a hard time trying to convey what’s on their mind. Instead of trying to fill in the blanks for them out of impatience, let them speak. Give them time. Listen to what they are trying to say. This strategy is a lot more effective than cutting your loved one short or stopping them before they have said what they want.
(5) Listen to non-visual cues: It can sometimes be helpful to pay attention to your loved one’s body language or facial expressions to ascertain how they are feeling. Body language can say everything you need to know. This also goes for you, the caregiver, as well. Be sure to make eye contact with your loved one and to be warm and inviting, even if you feel impatient or stressed.
If you have any other questions, please call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website.