If you live with or care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), you may already know that communication can be a real challenge. Having a conversation with a person with AD usually requires a great deal of patience and understanding. This is because AD lowers a person’s ability to clearly verbalize ideas and thoughts, while diminishing the normal brain function involved in listening and comprehending what is being said.
Here are some common communication problems that may be noted during any stage of AD:
-Using the same word/s over and over
-Inability to remember the name of objects, people or places
-Using a description instead of a name
-Losing one’s train of thought frequently
-Problems finding the right words
-Reverting to using one’s native language
-Difficulty putting words together in a logical manner
-Clamming up and refusing to speak as often as usual
-Using hand gestures when finding the words becomes difficult
-Speaking less often
Communication During the Early Stages of AD
During the early stages of the disease, most people with AD can still participate in social activities and communicate normally. But, those in the early stages of the disease oftentimes feel overwhelmed by excess stimulation (such as in large groups of people). They may also have trouble finding the right words they want to say. They may tell the same story or conveying the same idea over and over.
Tips for improving communication during the early stages of the disease
Avoid assuming your loved one with AD is unable to communicate normally, just because of his/her diagnosis.
Teach others to include the person with AD in conversations, social interaction lends itself to AD prevention.
Use patience in listening to how the person with AD feels, what he is thinking about or what he/she may need.
Allow for ample time for the person with AD to respond during verbal interactions.
Don’t interrupt the person with AD or try to finish his/her sentences.
If you are in doubt about your loved one’s comfort level in social situations, ask him/her
Don’t be afraid to laugh. Humor can help lighten the mood. Some families have found using humor is an effective way to cope with the many frustrations and stress of communicating with a loved one with AD.
Explore alternative methods of communication, for example, some people with AD can express themselves better using written forms of communication than speaking.
Last, but not least, don’t distance yourself from a loved one with AD because of communication problems. Sometimes it’s better to simply sit in silence to show your love and support for a person with AD.
While Alzheimer’s disease causes changes in the brain that lead to challenges in most people’s ability to communicate clearly, there are other factors (such as medications) that can worsen communication problems. Be sure to consult with the attending physician any time you notice any major or sudden changes in your loved one’s ability to communicate effectively.
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