Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, which is a general term for the loss of memory and other cognitive abilities which can affect a person’s everyday life. You may find that communicating with your parents who have Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging. Nevertheless, it is important to keep trying to establish that communication in order to understand them and be understood. When communicating with Alzheimer’s patients, there are some things you need to take note of in order to achieve successful communication. Here are 7 tips that you may find useful.
Curb Potential Distractions
Look for a comfortable and quiet spot to talk to them. Ensure that any music or TV is turned off to achieve an atmosphere of peace and quiet. If you are in a noisy place such as a store or café, try to find a seat or area that is further away from all the noise before talking to them. For someone with Alzheimer’s, these distractions can be overwhelming.
Use Your Name
Instead of identifying yourself and others by relationships such as ‘mother’ or ‘son’, identify yourself by name. For example, say “Hello, it’s me, Tom.” This is better than saying, “Hello dad, it’s your son here, Tom.” This is because the elderly with dementia are usually more ‘present’ in an earlier time of their life, and during that time, they may not have had you as their child yet. Therefore, they are unable to associate you with your relationship with them, and identifying by name is more effective than trying to bring them to the present.
It is important to speak naturally to them using simple, clear, and complete sentences. Use a calm and friendly voice while incorporating subtle body movements or gestures. For example, if you say, “Let’s go to the other room,” motion with your arm to invite them. This makes the communication clearer to them and they would be more likely to understand what you mean.
Talk About One Topic at a Time
When someone has dementia, it is difficult to mentally juggle several topics at once in a conversation. Keep your conversations with them simple and concise. Ask open-ended questions instead of giving them ‘quizzes’. If you need to ask questions, ask one question at a time and focus on specific things such as, “This is a beautiful picture. What do you think about it?” instead of “Do you remember painting this picture and where was it?”
Use Nonverbal Gestures
With advanced dementia, using nonverbal cues may give you more success in communicating with your loved ones. Some examples of nonverbal cues are smiling, holding their hand, and maintaining eye contact.
Allow them more time to process what you have said and wait for their response patiently. Even if they are struggling for a word, let them try to find the right word to say instead of jumping in, which may interrupt their thought process.
Avoid Complicated Questions
Questions like “What would you like to eat?” can be overwhelming. Instead, offer them simpler choices, preferably with visual cues. For instance, show them two types of food and ask, “Would you like to eat the spaghetti or the salad?” Doing this simplifies their choice and makes it easier for them to respond.