According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. Unlike the memory lose that comes with normal aging, Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, neurological disorder that effects memory, thinking and behavior. And over time, begins to interfere with your ability to complete even simple tasks like dressing or eating.

While Alzheimer’s can occur at any age, most commonly the first signs of symptoms occur by age 65 and often include issues recalling recent events, confusion, and behavioral changes. It can also make it difficult for your loved one to communicate, causing frustration for both you and your loved one.

How Alzheimer's Affects Communication

There are a number of ways Alzheimer’s disease can affect communication including difficulty finding the right works, describing familiar objects rather than using their proper names, losing their train of thought, difficulty constructing sentences, reliance on gestures, as opposed to words, repetition of stories and speaking less often.

Communicating with someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia takes patience, understanding and good listening skills, particularly as the disease progresses. Here are some simple tips for helping you communicate better with a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. Don’t under estimate their abilities to communicate. Because the progression of Alzheimer’s varies from person to person, it’s important not to assume things about your loved one’s ability to communicate. Don’t exclude them from conversations. Speak directly to them. And take time to listen to their feelings, thoughts and needs.
  2. Try to limit distractions. As previously mentioned, it’s not uncommon for someone with Alzheimer’s to lose their train of thought. This is especially true if they are trying to have a conversation in a crowded or noisy room. When speaking with your loved one, turn off any televisions or radios, or go to a quiet space. And maintain eye contact so they know they have your full attention.
  3. Keep questions simple. As your loved one’s disease progresses, avoid asking more than one question at a time. And if possible, form questions in terms of “yes” or “no”. For example, instead of asking what they want for dinner, ask “Do you want salad with your dinner?”
  4. Offer comfort and patience. If your loved one is having difficulty finding a certain word or finishing their thought, let them know it’s okay. Don’t make them feel rushed or try to finish their sentences for them. Instead, give them the time they need to respond and avoid criticizing, correcting or arguing. This can often just spark anger or agitation.
  5. Try different forms of communication. When speaking aloud is causing frustration, try writing down what you’re trying to say. For some, reading a note or an email can be easier to process than a phone or even in-person conversations.

As this disease progresses, it can become more and more difficult to communicate with your loved one. Just remember to be patient and work together to find a way to connect.

Support for Alzheimer's at Western Home Communities

At Western Home Communities we believe in helping those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia create moments of joy each day. From gardening to fishing, baking, taking walks and attending concerts, we work to create a safe, secure environment that helps residents live life to the fullest, despite their diagnosis.

If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, contact Western Home Communities today to learn more about our Memory Support program, including Thalman Square, a cheerful, calm environment designed with a neighborhood feel to ensure every resident feels at home.