Communication is without a doubt a real concern for those who have family members with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). As the disease progresses, it may become more and more difficult to understand and be understood by your loved one. Practicing patience, understanding and good listening skills is a must.
During the early stages of AD, communication issues may not be noticed, or there may be only slight changes such as repeating stories of forgetting a word. As AD progresses, caregivers may note more and more changes.
Common Signs of Communication Problems with AD
- Using the same word over and over
- Making up new words to describe something
- Problems with organizing words in a logical manner
- Refraining from speaking
Although the above list symptoms are commonly observed in AD, normally, communication changes occur gradually. If you notice a sudden decline in the way your loved one communicated, notify your physician immediately - this could indicate complications such as side effects from medications, or other physical conditions could be developing.
Those with AD may not only have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings through normal conversation, the person usually has problems understanding what others are saying as well.
Tips for Conversing with an Individual with Alzheimer’s
- Practice patience
- Limit the amount of distractions in the room
- Offer frequent support
- Tell your loved one that you care and assure her/him that you are listening
- Avoid criticism or constant correction
- Encourage the individual to continue to make attempts to communicate his/her thoughts and feelings
- Repeat what you think you heard for clarity
- Never argue with someone who is struggling to communicate
- Offer speculation of what you think he/she may be trying to say
- Look for clues offered by the person’s tone-for example does he/she sound frustrated?
- Try to anticipate needs
Attempting to communicate effectively is one of the biggest challenges of being a caregiver, but given time, your ability to effectively understand your loved one will improve. In many instances, caregivers are the only ones who can understand many of the care recipient’s needs and wants.
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease by CLICKING HERE to sign up for our 25 topic Alzheimer’s caregivers’ course at AlzU.org.