As Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia progress, it is common for a person to gradually lose their ability to communicate. As the disease reaches its most advanced stage most verbal communication ceases for the senior. As a loved one or a caregiver, this is heartbreaking to watch. Communication is a way people connect, strengthen relationships, and bond with each other. Taking away this connection, especially during an emotional time, is hard on both loved one and senior.
Thankfully, genuine connection is still possible with some modifications to communication styles. Here are some tips that will help you better connect with your loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s.
- Practice Acceptance – As mentioned above, Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, and verbal communication will gradually diminish. It is okay to feel a range of emotions because of this – from anger to sadness and even joy when you are successful. There will be good days and bad days; be fully present for the good moments even as you accept there may be difficult times.
- Minimize Distractions – People with Alzheimer's are quickly overwhelmed when too much is going on in a room. If they are in the moderate to late stages of the disease, it is best to communicate with them in a room that is distraction free. Look for a place that is quiet, private, and turn off any music or television.
- Simplify Your Story – As time goes on, it will be difficult to share complex stories. Keep your communication to the point and avoid tangents. It is also helpful to refer to people by their name and their relationship to your loved one (example: Bobby, your grandson, and Susie, your daughter). Avoid just using pronouns when possible.
- Have Patience – One of the biggest factors in effectively communicating is maintaining your patience. Your loved one may not react in a way you would like, and it is easy to become frustrated and discouraged. Even though these are natural reactions, try not to act on these feelings. Pause, take a deep breath, and repeat what you said or move on. Sometimes, it is okay to just enjoy companionship without trying to talk.
- Focus on Nonverbal Cues – Make sure you communicate not only with your words but also your actions. Maintain eye contact, smile, and keep a positive inflection in your voice. If your loved one is feeling comfortable, you can give a hug or even hold hands. All of these will go a long way in creating a connection, even if your words are not understood.
We hope these tips for effectively communicating with your loved one living with Alzheimer’s will help you on your journey. For more resources about Alzheimer’s, caregiver support, and how we can help, please contact your local Fieldstone Memory Care community.