When people think of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, memory-related challenges are often the first issues that come to mind. However, challenges related to interpersonal communication can be similarly prevalent. If your parent or loved one is affected by dementia, learning how to better communicate can strengthen your relationship and keep you better equipped to meet their changing needs. This process requires grace, patience and understanding, but the results will make both of your lives better and help ensure that they are getting the most out of each day.
Changes in communication can be very gradual and manifest differently from person to person; if your aging parent or loved one has not yet been diagnosed with dementia, there are several warning signs that might indicate its onset. Below is a list of examples courtesy of the Alzheimer’s Association:
Difficulty finding the right words
Using familiar words repeatedly
Describing familiar objects rather than calling them by name
Easily losing a train of thought
Difficulty organizing words logically
Reverting to speaking a native language
Speaking less often
Relying on gestures more than speaking
As dementia progresses, the person’s ability to communicate becomes increasingly inhibited, but there are still plenty of ways to anticipate their challenges and maintain your bond. Below are a few tips on doing so.
Eliminate Possible Interference
People with dementia can often become overstimulated by their environment and shut down. To help mitigate this, get rid of potential distractions by turning off the radio or television or closing a window to dampen the noise of a busy street outside. Limiting these external distractions can help them focus solely on your conversation without becoming overwhelmed.
Use Names Instead of Relationship Titles
Using names to identify or reference yourself or family members can be more helpful than using relationship titles like “daughter” or “husband.” This is because their mind may be occupying a bygone era of their life rather than the present day. For example, “daughter” may not be relevant to them if they are mentally present in a time before they had children.
Be Aware of Pace and Tone
It is important to speak clearly at a pace that allows the person to absorb what you are saying without sounding condescending. You can likely pick up on whether or not they are following the conversation and adjust the pace of your speech accordingly. Be sure to leave some extra time between sentences so that they can think and respond. Remember to speak to them with respect and avoid harsh tones even if you are frustrated or need to repeat yourself.
Be Kind to Them and Yourself
Dementia is difficult for everyone involved, and some days will be harder than others. Be as present as possible when they are having a good day and extend the conversation or visit if they have the energy. On bad days, be patient and forgiving and remember that you are both doing your best. You are there for them, and that’s what matters most.
As dementia progresses, there can be a point at which even your best efforts are no longer enough. If your loved one is suffering from dementia and you would like to learn more about the benefits of memory care, call Inland Christian Home today at (909) 983-0084.