Does your loved one struggle with Alzheimer’s disease? If so, you know first-hand that communication can feel very frustrating. In fact, over 5 million Americans in the United States — and their family members — experience the frustration, feelings of being overwhelmed and anger that result from the communication breakdown accompanying this disease.
Alzheimer’s erodes communication skills, and consequently, your loved one has difficultly organizing words logically — and also, understanding what you’re saying. This leaves many wondering about the best way to communicate with their loved ones, as they often feel unreachable. Here are a few tips for getting started.
Minimize distractions. Before starting a conversation, get rid of distractions — the television, the radio and other devices. With distractions eliminated, your words are clearer, as the environment becomes less overwhelming. Speak in a warm and calm tone of voice, and make sure that your loved one can see you clearly.
Be specific in your conversation. While under normal circumstances you may be able to say, “Hey Mom, it’s me,” this can be frustrating and confusing for your loved one. Instead, be specific. Say, “Mom, it’s me, Mary” instead.
Ask simple questions. People with dementia may become frustrated or overwhelmed if they can’t answer your questions. If you need to ask something, keep it simple. Phrase your questions so they can be answered with a simple yes or no.
Slow down the conversational pace. Leave a quiet pause between each sentence that you speak. While this may feel unnatural, it’s very helpful to your loved one, as they have additional time to process what you’re saying before you continue to speak.
Stay aware of your body language. A person with Alzheimer’s may not always understand what you say, but your body language is clear. A tense facial expression or sudden movements may be upsetting, so try to smile, stay upbeat and avoid a sharp tone of voice. Stand at or below their eye level when speaking.
Adopt a dedication to patience. There will be days when communication feels nearly impossible, but with enough patience there will be good days as well. And by giving your loved one the extra time and patience he or she needs, there will be moments that feel like communication breakthroughs — and all the frustration will no longer matter.
If your loved one is struggling with Alzheimer’s and you have questions about retirement living options or what’s best for your family member to thrive, we’re here to help. Contact us online or call 203-343-1932 today.