10 Tips for Communicating With a Loved One With Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease causes progressive brain damage and nerve cell failure, which can result in a wide range of symptoms. Although most people associate Alzheimer’s disease with memory problems, difficulty communicating is another major symptom. People with dementia may forget recent conversations, repeat themselves, have trouble organizing their thoughts, and more. This can make it difficult for them to carry on a conversation and express themselves especially to their caregivers.
However, there are things you can do to support your family member and make it easier for them to communicate with you. Here are ten tips for communicating with a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
1. Eliminate Distractions
People with Alzheimer’s usually have trouble blocking out background noises. If you want to have a conversation with your loved one, it’s best to take them somewhere quiet without distractions. Turn off the TV or radio so you can focus on each other and be present.
2. Avoid Correcting Them
Although Alzheimer’s disease affects every person differently, your loved one will likely experience significant memory loss and language difficulties. They might have trouble following conversations and finding the right words, which can cause them to say things that don’t make sense.
Correcting your loved one’s word choice or memory of an event can make them feel embarrassed and confused. It’s usually best to avoid pointing out your relative’s mistakes so you don’t upset them.
3. Help Them Make Decisions
Decision-making can be difficult for people with Alzheimer’s. If you give your loved one too many options, they may have trouble choosing and get frustrated.
For example, asking your relative what they’d like to do today is too broad. Try to simplify the question by seeing if they’d prefer to go to the mall or the park. You can also ask yes or no questions to give your loved one some control over their day without overwhelming them with options.
4. Ask Open-Ended Questions
If you want to start a conversation with your loved one, try asking them an open-ended question about their life. People with Alzheimer’s usually recall the past better than the present and enjoy sharing their experiences. Asking your relative to tell you what they remember about their wedding day or childhood is a great way to connect with them on a deeper level.
5. Be Patient
When speaking to a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it’s important to be patient. Your relative will likely need extra time to process what you’ve said and formulate a response. Although these pauses in conversation may feel long and awkward, try not to jump in and fill the silence. Interrupting a person with Alzheimer’s can cause them to lose their train of thought, which can be frustrating for them.
6. Avoid Complex Language
Another hallmark symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is trouble understanding complex language like figures of speech. When you talk to your relative, try to avoid using metaphors, idioms, and advanced vocabulary, which may be difficult for them to comprehend. Sticking to basic words and simple sentences will make it easier for your loved one to converse with you.
7. Pay Attention to Your Tone
Your tone is just as important as what you say when speaking to an Alzheimer’s patient.
Try to avoid raising your voice too much when talking with your relative, even if they have hearing problems. Speaking too loudly may make your loved one feel like you’re shouting at them. If they have trouble hearing you, pitch your voice lower and speak slowly and clearly so they can understand you better.
Additionally, try to avoid speaking in a singsong tone of voice or calling your loved one nicknames such as honey or sweetheart. Although you may be trying to show affection, your relative could feel like you’re talking down to them. Instead, refer to your loved one by their name or preferred title and use a calm, conversational tone of voice.
8. Make Them Feel Included
To prevent your loved one from feeling left out, avoid speaking about them as if they’re not in the room. Try to engage with them and include them in conversations as much as possible so they don’t feel ignored.
9. Redirect Your Loved One
As a result of their condition, Alzheimer’s patients can experience mood swings and become irritated with little warning. Usually the best way to calm your loved one down if they get upset mid-conversation is to validate their feelings, then redirect them. Changing the subject to something they enjoy discussing or suggesting a different activity like taking a walk can help distract them from negative emotions.
10. Use Nonverbal Communication
As your loved one’s Alzheimer’s progresses, they may find it difficult to carry on even a simple conversation. Luckily talking isn’t the only way to connect with each other. Holding hands, smiling, and maintaining eye contact can show your relative you care without the need for words.
Your loved one may also try to communicate with you nonverbally if they can’t express themselves in words. Their facial expressions and body language can tell you how they’re feeling and what they might need. For example, if your loved one starts tugging at their clothes, it could be a sign that they’re too hot or need to use the restroom.
Even if your relative can’t communicate the way they used to, they may be able to sing a song with you or look through an old photo album together. You can still find plenty of ways to spend quality time with your loved one if they have late-stage dementia.
Get Extra Support
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be a challenge, especially as their disease progresses. You may need extra support to ensure your family member can safely age in place while you (the caregiver) also gets enough support.
Professional Caretakers has been working with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and their families since 1988. Our experienced caregivers know how to reassure seniors with dementia when they become confused and assist them with activities of daily living. Our caretakers will help support your loved one’s wellbeing through proper nutrition, art, and music and be a friendly, encouraging presence in their life.
Contact us today to learn more about our home care services for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s.