Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Tips for Better Communication

September is World Alzheimer’s Month! In honor of this month, we recognize and spread awareness of how Alzheimer’s has touched our lives or anyone else’s life that we know.

Dementia is a general term encompassing a group of symptoms that affect daily life. It is caused by a progressive degeneration in brain cells that impairs communication, reasoning, and other thinking skills.

While dementia is a general term for decline in mental ability, Alzheimer’s disease describes a specific disease that accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. It is a disease that affects parts of the brain that control memory, thought, and language. As such, it can be difficult to properly communicate with those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Dementia may affect communication in the following ways:

· Difficulty finding the right word/substituting words

· Losing train of thought

· Deteriorating writing and reading skills

· Increased tendency to interrupt and become distracted

· Difficulty organizing words in logical sentence

· Repeating words, phrases, and questions

· Using offensive language

· Talking less than usual

Here are some communication techniques to help caregivers communicate with those who have Alzheimer’s and dementia:

1. Choose a proper environment. As you engage with someone with dementia, be aware of your surroundings and distractions that may impair communication. A quiet and calm environment devoid of background noise with good lighting is ideal. This will help those with dementia listen attentively and concentrate.

2. Sit in an optimal position. Another way to engage verbally with a dementia patient is to sit face to face at eye level, and make eye contact. Get close enough so they can interpret body language and see facial expressions. Be sure that the patient is wearing any working hearing aids or eye-glasses to facilitate communication.

3. Speak clearly and concisely. Use simple, short sentences and talk slowly. As the disease progresses, consider asking question that require a single yes or no, and break down requests into single steps.

4. Offer choices. Rather that asking a dementia patient an open-ended question or making a request, offer choices to simplify communication.

5. Be patient. Someone with dementia may take more time to respond and process the question or statement. Be sure to allow a sufficient amount of time for a response, and block out adequate time for medical conversations and visits.

6. Be aware of non-verbal cues. Body language accounts for a large portion of communication, and will help those with dementia interpret what you’re saying. Try to maintain an open and relaxed body language, and speak in an even tone of voice.

7. Avoid correcting mistakes. Avoid arguing with the patient, and telling them what they can’t do. Focus on the positives and state what they can do. Agree with them or distract them to a different subject or activity.

Educating ourselves about Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is the best way to stay ahead of this progressive disease. By arming ourselves with knowledge, we can better take care of ourselves and our loved ones in hopes of preventing the disease. Happier at Home caregivers can be trained to help your loved one with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Call us today to enlist our help.