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Just as the symptoms of Alzheimer’s varies from one person to the next, communication skills do as well. As the disease progresses, you can expect to see a person’s ability to communicate decline. It will be challenging for your loved one to express their thoughts and feelings, and can lead to a frustration for both the caregiver and the patient.
Common Communication Problems According to the Alzheimer’s Association
- forgetting what they were about to say
- using descriptive words to describe something instead of saying the item’s name
- saying familiar words again and again
- relying heavily on gestures
- difficulty finding the correct word
- communicating less often
- repeating stories
- using a wrong or made up word
6 Helpful Communication Tips
- Avoid jumping in too quickly- It is normal to want to finish your loved ones sentences or interrupt when they are struggling to get their point across. Instead be patient and let them know you are trying to understand. Try to wait until they ask for help or occasionally offer suggestions if they are struggling to find the right word. If you ask a question, give them some response time. Patience and understanding will go a long way.
2. Give your full attention- Remember to keep eye contact and speak directly to your loved one. Get down on their level, face to face, and use their name. It not only shows that you care about what they are saying, but it shows the person respect. It is helpful to keep noisy distractions such as television background noise to a minimal when you are trying to have a conversation too.
3. Keep it short and sweet- If you need something done, you are going to need to give step by step simple instructions. The more words you use, the less likely that they will be able to complete the task. Speak clearly, keep a normal tone, and get to the point. It is helpful to use hand gestures or objects to demonstrate what you want done too.
4. Rephrase your questions- Sometimes all it takes is changing how you ask your questions. Try asking more questions that involve shorter responses, such as “yes” or “no” questions. Instead of asking “What do you want to wear today?’ say “Do you want to wear the white shirt or blue shirt?” or simply hold up the two choices for them to see.
5. Choose the higher road- Avoid arguing or criticizing, it is not helpful. If your loved ones says something you disagree with, don’t engage in the argument or be quick to tell them that they are wrong. It is often better to let it go and redirect to something else.
6. Put on a smile- Make an effort to be nice, friendly, and even laugh. If you have a positive attitude and are in a good mood, it will make everyone’s day better. Smiles are contagious. Your body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions will communicate much more than your words will.
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