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Helping your Loved One Communicate

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

It is often difficult for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia to communicate their thoughts and emotions. This causes changes in the ability to communicate. Also, medications and other physical conditions associated with aging can compromise the ability to communicate. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, we sometimes notice our loved ones will repeat stories they have already told or forget common words. Alzheimer’s Association can help you convey the right message to your loved ones.

Usually, our Care Partners have to carefully analyze the behaviors of each person within the context of their environment in order to determine what your loved one might be thinking or feeling. An additional hurdle while communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia is that they can find it difficult to understand the feelings and emotions of others.

The Alzheimer’s Association has several tips on how you can help your loved ones communicate their thoughts and emotions:

  1. Be patient and supportive. Let the person know you’re listening, and also understanding. Show the person that you care about what he or she is saying and be careful not to interrupt.

  2. Offer comfort and reassurance. If he or she is having trouble communicating, let the person know that it’s okay. Encourage the person to continue to explain his or her thoughts.

  3. Avoid criticizing or correcting. Don’t tell the person what he or she is saying is incorrect. Instead, listen and try to find the meaning in what is being said. Repeat what was said if it helps to clarify the thought.

  4. Avoid arguing. If the person says something you don’t agree with, let it be. Arguing usually only makes things worse — often heightening the level of agitation for the person with dementia.

  5. Offer a guess. If the person uses the wrong word or cannot find a word, try guessing the right one. If you understand what the person means, you may not need to give the correct word. Be careful not to cause unnecessary frustration.

  6. Encourage unspoken communication. If you don’t understand what is being said, ask the person to point or gesture.

  7. Limit distractions. Find a place as well as the surroundings that’s quiet, it will support the person’s ability to focus on his or her thoughts.

  8. Focus on feelings, not facts. Sometimes the emotions being expressed are more important than what is being said. Look for the feelings behind the words. At times, tone of voice and other actions may provide clues.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

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