Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are memory-based diseases which progressively diminish the individual’s capabilities to effectively communicate and is, therefore, a traumatic process for loved ones to watch and be a part of.
However, even though your close friend or member of your family may be becoming more and more unable to communicate, by no means should you stop trying (quite the opposite in fact).
With this in mind, here is how to best communicate with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
Changes to Expect in Your Loved One’s Ability to Communicate
Unfortunately, it is highly likely (although the pace significantly varies depending on the individual) that your loved one’s ability to communicate will indeed diminish after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
The most common issues in terms of communication you may well experience with your loved one include the following:
- Speaking slowly and less often than before
- The repetition of words that are more familiar to them
- Describing people and objects rather than using the name
- Speaking in a more childlike manner
- Gesticulating rather than speaking
- Struggling to string a sentence together
- Losing their train of thought regularly
The Early Stages of an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
In the early stages of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis (referred to by medical professionals as mild Alzheimer’s), it is more than possible that your loved one will still be able to participate in social activities and engage in detailed and meaningful conversation.
This, therefore, is the time to begin subtly changing how you converse with your loved one and starting to address the above issues with speech and communication early.
It would also be pertinent to point out that this is the time that you and your loved one may well want to start to consider the possibility of moving them to a senior living community and to start researching the various and beneficial assisted living options that are available.
During the early stages of the disease’s progression, always speak directly to your loved one, do not exclude them from conversation, and take the time to actually (and properly) listen to them and allow them the time and space they need to express their emotions.
As Alzheimer’s Progresses…
Unfortunately, at the time of writing there is no medical cure for any form of dementia, especially not Alzheimer’s disease, which means that you will have to face the fact that your loved one’s ability to communicate will indeed diminish.
As the disease progresses, start to include sounds, tastes, touch, sights, and smells into how you relate to your loved one, instead of just verbal cues; and remember that even if you can find nothing to say, your very presence is the most meaningful.
Start to consider conversation and communication to be an entirely sensory experience; always approach your loved one from the front and never surprise them or make them jump.
Finally, and most importantly of all, always treat your loved one with patience, love, dignity, and respect at all times.