Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating illness that causes changes to the personality, thought processes, and emotions. Some of the changes that an Alzheimer’s patient experiences may present challenges in communication with caregivers, family members, friends, and loved ones. Knowing what those changes might be may help caregivers improve understanding.
Caregivers may find that the Alzheimer’s patient:
- Has difficulty remembering or understanding the meaning of words
- Loses train-of-thought or has difficulty paying attention during a conversation
- Gets distracted easily
- Becomes overly sensitive to the tone or volume of sounds
- Becomes frustrated easily while conversing
These issues with communication are caused by a loss of cognition. In addition to communication problems, seniors may have difficulty remembering how to perform complex or multi-step tasks such as cooking, getting dressed, or paying bills. She may also become overly sensitive to touch or body language and may experience other symptoms such as personality changes, hallucinations and paranoia.
As he or she worsens, communication may become more difficult. Some tips for improving or maintaining communication might include:
- Making direct eye contact and regaining eye contact if lost
- Be aware of tone, loudness, and body language
- Use gentle touch if verbal instruction is not working
- Switch to another activity for distraction if the senior becomes frustrated
- Continue to show caring concern
- Openly listen and consider their concerns even if it difficult to understand
- Be patient with lapses in communication or outbursts of irritability
- Simplify instruction with a step-by-step explanation
- Be willing to repeat
- Continue to talk “normally” to them and do not revert to baby-talk
- Don’t make an issue of memory lapse
- Be aware that they may say something odd
- Help them find the right words if they’re experience difficulty
- Anticipate needs and interpret physical actions
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be heartbreaking and challenging, but also rewarding. Remembering you are giving the best possible care and helping the senior to cope, even if they do not appear to appreciate your efforts.