It takes time, understanding, and the ability to adapt in order to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that gets worse over time and mostly affects memory, thinking, and behavior. As Alzheimer’s worsens, it can be hard for seniors and their home care team or loved ones to talk to them. But with the right method and tools, it is still possible to keep meaningful connections.
Consider the following tips when communication is affected by Alzheimer’s.
Use Simple Words: Use words that are clear and easy to understand. Use short sentences and stay away from words or terms that are hard to understand or that might overwhelm seniors.
Focus on eye contact and nonverbal cues: Eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures are all nonverbal cues that can help show feelings and goals. They might also help seniors understand better.
Be Patient: People with Alzheimer’s may need more time to think about what they’ve heard and figure out what to say. Don’t hurry them; give them the time they need to say what they want to say. This also helps minimize their frustration and empowers them by letting them know you care what they have to say.
Ask One Question at a Time: Asking too many questions or giving too many choices at once can be confusing. Ask seniors one question at a time and wait for their answer before going on to the next one. In order to do this consistently, it’s important for the in-home care team and loved ones to be fully focused during this time.
Focus on Feelings and Emotions: Alzheimer’s can make it hard to remember things, but feelings and emotions usually stay the same. For this reason, loved ones should focus on sharing feelings, connecting with each other on an emotional level, and encouraging seniors to do the same thing. Additionally, if seniors are nervous or upset, loved ones can try to feel the same way to show they care and use a quiet, encouraging voice to help them feel better.
Use Visual Aids: Seeing things can help back up what is said. Use pictures, objects, or drawings to help communicate and get ideas across. Loved ones, seniors, and the in-home care team might also consider sign language an effective communication method.
Avoid Arguments: Don’t correct or argue with them. People with Alzheimer’s may become confused or disoriented, which can cause them to say things that aren’t true. Instead, try to reassure them and steer the conversation toward more positive topics.
Remember that everyone with Alzheimer’s is different, and what helps one person may not help another. For meaningful communication to continue as the disease gets worse, loved ones and the home care team need patience, empathy, and a desire to connect on their terms. It’s also important for caregivers and family members to get help, education, and short-term care so they can take care of their loved ones without risking their health. With time and patience, seniors can get the support they need when they need it most.