Alzheimer's and Dementia: Tips for Better Communication
The phrase, “Communication is key,” is top of mind for many when they are asked to reflect on their successes. Effective communication is important for a multitude of reasons. In general, communication allows for conversations to flow accurately and quickly. Poor communication can have the opposite effect, by causing frequent misunderstanding and frustration.
As Alzheimer’s and dementia progresses, communication becomes increasingly difficult for those affected. Your loved one or client may have a difficult time understanding you just as much as you may struggle to understand them. Communicating with a person living with Alzheimer’s or dementia requires patience, listening skills, and an understanding that new strategies may be needed.
Know what to expect
While Alzheimer’s and dementia affect everyone in different ways, it can be helpful to have some knowledge of what to expect. Patterns that you may find in conversations with your client or loved one can include, but are not limited to:
- Difficulty finding the right words
- Increase use of gestures rather than speaking
- Repeating words, stories, or questions
- Ability to describe an object, but not name it
- Easily losing train of thought
Help make communication easier
Over time, you may find the need to search for new techniques to communicate. In general, many of these tips can be used by caregivers, friends, and families to assist in communication with those affected.
1. Have one-on-one conversations. Engaging in one-on-one conversations with minimal distractions can help keep your loved one focused. When in conversation, reduce the background noise and distractions such as tv or radio. This practice can include making eye contact and calling the person by name, so that they feel connected with the conversation.
2. Be mindful of your non-verbal cues. In any setting it is important to be aware of how your tone, volume of speech, and body language can affect others. As their ability to verbally communicate becomes increasingly difficult, those affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia become more reliant on non-verbal cues. It can be helpful to use gestures or other visual cues alongside words, to promote better understanding.
3. Encourage the person to speak with you. It is no secret that communication will be a challenge for each party involved. Take time to listen and be patient as your loved one expresses themselves. Use context clues and try to understand by offering a guess; this can help reassure them that you are engaged in conversation.
4. Keep it simple and direct. In addition to using gestures, keeping your sentences short can help with understanding. Asking questions that require a yes/no or this/that response may enhance the speed of communication. By offering choices and breaking down requests into single steps, you are encouraging your loved one or client to focus on the task at hand.
5. Stay positive and avoid arguments. The challenge of communication increases as the disease progresses, but there are no benefits to arguing with or criticizing those affected. Taking time away to give yourself a break can help you remain patient and encouraging when communicating.
It is always best to consult with a medical professional to determine the most suitable techniques for your client or loved one’s needs. Caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be a full-time job. At Senior Helpers, we specialize in genuine, in-home care that is designed to give your loved one the absolute best quality of life. Our Senior Gems® program is uniquely designed to help our caregivers assess and provide care for Seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Take our quiz to determine if home care is right for you.
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