Millions of people across the world live with Alzheimer’s, all at varying stages.
If it impacts a loved one, you know just how difficult living with it can be.
While there are many changes to be aware of, one of the most difficult stems from communication. What used to be easy and free-flowing can now be challenging at best. But having Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to stop your conversations. It just means adjusting to what is now possible.
Eye contact is incredibly important when you speak with someone with Alzheimer’s. It helps focus the conversation, establishes connection, and ensures the person you are talking with that you are paying attention to what they have to say.
Use the person’s name frequently throughout the conversation. Using their name establishes the connection that you are indeed talking with them. It helps them pay attention and engage in the conversation that is taking place.
If you are having a deep and meaningful conversation, remove distractions as much as possible. Turn off the television or radio to ensure both parties are actively listening. Move away from loud, noisy areas, especially if children are playing nearby.
Avoid fighting. At times, you might become frustrated with the things a person remembers or forgets. It’s most often the disease that is impacting the conversation; you’ll never win. The best way to deal with a potential argument is to simply walk away.
Be patient. This means you should avoid finishing sentences or come up with the right words when he or she can’t. It is better to refocus the conversation and ask questions that might help him or her remember instead. Always be aware of the point of conversation and try to steer it by asking questions that empower your loved one, not add to their frustration.
At times, a person with Alzheimer’s may enter a different reality. People from their past may suddenly come to life in their minds. Instead of trying to correct them, reflect it in the conversation. It makes it easier if you simply play along. In most cases, it won’t impact the overall outcome of the conversation, and ideas will change from day to day.
Get creative. Instead of relying on pure conversation, introduce stimulates instead. How about a picture book? Or a scrapbook of mementos? Using props can add to the enjoyment of the conversation, and even bring out new thoughts from your loved one.
Be specific. We use generalized terms in our conversations all the time. For most of us, using “it” is just a normal part of our speech. But with someone with Alzheimer’s, “it” can be frustrating when they don’t know what “it” is. Name it instead whenever possible to avoid frustration.
This is a difficult and never-ending process. It’s okay to ask for help and guidance along the way. The important thing to realize is this is a journey, and how you travel from here on out depends on you.
How can you make a difference?