Seniors with Alzheimer’s: Communication Tips for Caregivers and Loved OnesMay 02, 2019
Many of us love or care for seniors struggling with Alzheimer’s or dementia. When someone is experiencing memory loss, they may be prone to withdraw, shut down, or will struggle to communicate clearly or effectively.
This breakdown in communication can be trying - for seniors, caregivers, and loved ones alike -, but there are ways to improve communication. Our True Blue team has gathered some great tips for how you can improve and maintain communication with someone facing a memory disorder.
Tip #1: Stay Centered and Patient
Rushing someone with Alzheimer's or pushing them to finish their train of thought may produce further frustration, and may hurt the lines of communication. Move slowly, try again, and breathe. Create a safe space that’s free from judgement or urgency. While it may be difficult at times, this patient approach will provide the most lasting and positive results.
Tip #2: Minimize External Distractions
External stimuli can feel agitating or distracting. To improve communication, you'll want to find a place where distractions are minimal.
Tip #3: Keep Sentences Short and Simple
Keep sentences short and simple, but don’t condescend. Assuming a "babying" tone can be counterproductive, making the older adult feel less capable.
Tip #4: Affirm and Fill in the Blank
When asking a question, it may be easier to stick with questions that can be answered with yes or no. It can be helpful to rephrase the question in different terms to try and affirm shared understanding.
If someone affected by Alzheimer’s is struggling to find a word they are looking for, it's helpful to offer your best guess and gauge from the emotion behind the response whether or not that's what they are getting at. A lot of the art of communicating with someone who has Alzheimer's is intuiting their emotions and trying to get a feel for what they're trying to say, even if they aren't able to say it outright.
Tip #5: Don't Focus on Facts or Over-Correct
Try to come from a place of understanding. Over-correcting someone with dementia may make them feel more frustrated or agitated, making it more difficult for them to think clearly.
Tip #6: When Words Fail Use Visual Cues
When it comes to communicating with someone who has Alzheimer's, it's really helpful to use more than just our words. Hand gestures, pointing, or exaggerated facial expressions help immensely.
Pictures are great resources, too. For example, if you're talking about your daughter, don't just say her name, pull up a picture of her either from a frame or from one that's saved on your phone or camera.
Tip #7: Get Active and Take Breaks
Regardless of whether or not you are suffering from memory loss, everyone needs a break from time to time. Communication can be very taxing, so sometimes it's best to take a break and try to do something that engages the physical senses. Take a walk, start an art project, or play a fun game! For more detailed tips, review these fun activity ideas.
Let Us Help You
Managing the feelings that come up when trying to communicate with a senior who has Alzheimer's can be very challenging. That's why we offer Alzheimer's Support Groups to families of residents. If you are looking after someone with a memory disorder, we encourage you to attend similar support groups.
If you have questions about our specialized Memory Care Programs, or would like to come by for a visit, we'd love to hear from you. We hope you found these tips to be helpful!
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