How to Communicate With a Loved One Who Has Alzheimer’s

April 19, 2023

Alzheimer's Makes Communication Challenging 

Alzheimer’s disease brings many challenges with it, and if your loved one has Alzheimer’s, you may find it difficult to communicate. As with other dementias, this disease diminishes a person’s ability to communicate, and difficulty remembering makes conversations hard to follow at times. Fortunately, there are strategies you can employ to help you and your loved one understand each other better. Proceeding with patience, understanding, and good listening skills can help you learn to more effectively communicate with your loved one, and this can ease frustrations and make life a little bit easier. 

There are many ways that Alzheimer’s disease presents challenges, including:

  • Loss of the correct word or train of thought during a conversation
  • Word meanings
  • Decreased attention span during longer conversations
  • Steps and processes for everyday activities, like cooking, dressing, and even operating the television
  • Inability to block out background noises
  • Increased frustration with miscommunications
  • Sensitivities to touch, tone and volume
  • Confusion with language

Making it Easier to Communicate

Approach your loved one with empathy. Remember that the sources of your frustrations lie in a disease that is still very much a mystery, as your loved one faces increasing challenges. You are on the same team, and if you can practice patience and empathy, even these challenging days can bring loving moments that you will later cherish as fond memories. When you are communicating, work to practice some things that are known to make a difference:

  • Look your loved one in the eyes 
  • Call them by name
  • Practice intentionally having a calm, soothing tone, appropriate volume, and body language that shows you care
  • Give your loved one the space to express him or herself and engage in a two-way conversation
  • Remember that sometimes being present to hold a hand or gently touch an arm is all that is needed to communicate
  • Have quiet ways to pass the time, like sharing a coloring page or looking at pictures, that don’t require talking.

Remember the importance of your non-verbal communication:

  • Display a warm and loving expression
  • Hold hands
  • Just listen- even when it is difficult to understand
  • Be patient with any angry outbursts- this is not personal
  • Allow space for your loved one to be involved in some decision-making

Effective communication strategies include:

  • Simple, concise instructions
  • Repeat, but increase your wait time before repeating
  • Offer dignity, remember the person is still there and he or she is not a baby or child. Speak in your normal tone. 

Remember to redirect the tempting negative responses with positive ones. Instead of pointing out mistakes or limitations, offer encouragement, like, “Let’s try this,” or, “I have an idea.” You can also simply say, “Thank you.” Additionally, you can modify and simplify the conversation a bit by saying things like:

  • “Are you happy?”
  • “Would you like a sandwich or soup?”
  • Change the way you say things to limit the choices or options.
  • If you feel yourself becoming frustrated, take a break. Your relationship is most important.

Communicating Through Each Stage

During early stages of Alzheimer’s, your loved one may continue with meaningful conversations and socialize well. However, he or she may repeat stories and become easily overwhelmed. The middle phase of Alzheimer’s disease is typically the longest. With this stage comes an increased difficulty with communication and more assistance for personal care. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, you are likely to rely on non-verbal communication and around the clock care. 

The Right Care Can Help Smooth the Way

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be difficult and sometimes emotionally draining. That’s why at BrightStar Care of Delray Beach, Florida, we work hard to deliver the right care for older people and to be a partner their loved ones can turn to for support. Because we believe that caring is more than just a job, our team of nurses, therapists, CNAs, and caregivers offer the most professional compassionate care available. In the comforting, familiar surroundings of home, we offer a full range of care services to meet your loved one’s needs and help you when you need it most. Visit our website to contact us or apply now, or call 561-921-0550 to learn more about joining the BrightStar Care family.