As Alzheimer’s progresses, your loved one will struggle to find the right words to communicate and easily lose his or her train of thought. Also, it’ll become increasingly harder for that person to understand you. It’s unfortunate, but it’s also an expected part of this condition since it directly affects neuronal functions.
Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts that can make things a little bit smoother when communication skills start to fade away:
Do: Maintain eye contact. This helps the person focus a bit more and shows you’re trying to understand. Don’t: Isolate. Make the best of your loved one’s abilities. Many people with Alzheimer’s disease become isolated and have a lack of stimuli; don’t allow this to happen by starting small conversation (especially about past events in the person’s life).
Do: Keep it clear and simple. Use short, precise sentences and be as straightforward as you can when asking questions or giving instructions. Don’t: Give or ask for several things at the same time. Most of the time, we say and ask for many things at once (“Please take your meds, I left them on the kitchen table…hey, do you feel like watching some TV after dinner?”) Remember to say precise things in a simple way.
Do: Use touch and sight. Since verbal skills will be lacking, put other senses to use. Gently touch the person on the shoulder when talking or hold their hand when you sense suffering. Another tip is to use visual cues like pictures or hand gestures when you’re explaining something. Don’t: Allow distractions. Reduce the level of distractions going around so your loved one can concentrate on the message you’re conveying.
Do: Repeat as necessary. The time will come when you’ll have to repeat the same thing over and over, be as patient as you can. Don’t: Argue. There’s no need to argue. You may feel frustrated and that’s natural; take a deep breath and learn to manage your stress so you can get your point across.
Always keep in mind that, even when unable to communicate, your loved one still has feelings, perceptions and emotions. Give these do’s and don’ts a try to help your family member feel understood and taken care of.