Alzheimer’s and Communication: Techniques for Talking with Your Loved One

Alzheimer’s and Communication

Communication is at the core of our interactions with one another. It’s how we exchange thoughts, express needs and feed relationships. When communication is difficult, we can easily feel disconnected from those we love.

Unfortunately for those living with progressive Alzheimer’s disease, the ability to communicate easily diminishes as time goes on. The degeneration of the brain not only affects the person’s memory, but also their ability to form words, think clearly, follow conversations or understand others.

If you are struggling to stay connected to your loved one with Alzheimer’s, it’s important to educate yourself about how the disease affects communication so you can know how to converse effectively. According to Polly West, Executive Director at Bridgepointe at Ashgrove Woods in Nicholasville, KY, “Communication is all about understanding. Realizing what your loved one might be feeling, and understanding how Alzheimer’s changes them, is the first step in learning how to successfully communicate.  

“With patience and respect, you can learn how best to communicate with your loved one to keep your relationship healthy and your connection close.”

Alzheimer’s Effect on Communication

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, you may not notice any changes with regards to your loved one’s ability to communicate. They might start repeating familiar phrases, cutting off mid-conversation or failing to comprehend questions. During the later stages, your loved one may struggle to express his or herself verbally or understand what others are saying. The Alzheimer’s Association explains several problems your loved one is likely to encounter throughout this progression, including:

  • Easily losing their train of thought
  • Using familiar words repeatedly
  • Inventing new words to describe familiar objects
  • Having difficulty organizing words or forming a sentence
  • Reverting to their native language
  • Speaking less often

Since Alzheimer’s disease affects everyone differently, your loved one may experience only a few of these communication problems at various stages in their disease.

10 Tips for Effective Communication

As Alzheimer’s impairs a loved one’s ability to communicate verbally, you will have to put in more effort on your end side of the conversation. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) notes, “Alzheimer's disease or related illnesses impair a person’s ability to understand words and to speak. However, they can still benefit from non-verbal communication – body language, voice tone and facial expressions. As the individual's ability to process verbal information declines, the importance of how caregivers communicate with them, verbally and non-verbally, increases.”

As you continue to communicate with your loved one, keep these expert tips in mind:

1. Regard their feelings – Recognize that your loved one may be experiencing any combination of frustration, embarrassment, depression or confusion. Try to act in a way that comforts and reassures them. 

2. Get their attention – When you speak, say their name first to help draw their attention to the conversation. Keep eye contact to help them focus.

3. Speak clearly – Slow down the speed of your conversation so your loved one can keep up. Talk in low, calm tones. Annunciate your words clearly.

4. Be fully present – Make sure your loved one can see you and hear you when you’re talking. Stand or sit in front of them and check to make sure they’re wearing their glasses or hearing aids.

5. Speak simply – Use simple words and pause for breaks. Lengthy explanations can be difficult for your loved one to follow or understand. Only ask them one thing at a time.

6. Use visual cues – Point to objects or demonstrate what you would like your loved one to do. For instance, if you’d like them to set the table, hand them the plates as you ask.

7. Understand body language – Pay attention to your facial expressions, posture and tone of voice. Your loved one can pick up on your true emotions through these nonverbal cues. 

8. Be patient – Give your loved one plenty of time to respond when you ask a question. You may need to repeat yourself or reword the question if they have trouble answering. Try not to rush them, as this only causes frustration and confusion.

9. Use positive phrases – Rather than saying, “Don’t leave,” say, “Stay here.” Positive phrases are more direct and easier to understand.

10. Relax – Maintaining an easy-going atmosphere will help both you and your loved one relax, making it easier to talk clearly and understand one another.

Even if your loved one no longer communicates verbally, they can still benefit from conversation. Chat with them about pleasant topics, friends and family or things that are meaningful to them. Taking care when talking with your loved one not only makes it easier for you two to stay connected, but it also shows them how much they are loved.

Taking Memory Care to New Heights

“At Bridgepointe at Ashgrove Woods, our unique approach to memory care helps our residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss feel comfortable and confident in their community,” explains West. “Our staff is specially trained in the Best Friends™ Approach, an internationally recognized model of care that focuses on personal relationships and individualized interactions.

“This method is especially important for our memory care residents. The staff becomes their Best Friends, learning who they were before memory loss and who they are now. They use this knowledge, along with their training in dementia care, to communicate effectively with each resident, and essentially become their voice whenever words begin to fail them.

“If you’d like to know more about the extraordinary lifestyle of care and compassion we offer at Bridgepointe at Ashgrove Woods, stop by our community, give us a call or visit our website for more information.” 

Live Life to the Fullest at Bridgepointe at Ashgrove Woods 

Bridgepointe at Ashgrove Woods is a Christian Care Community offering assisted senior care, memory care and adult day services. Located in Brannon Crossing, one of central Kentucky’s most desirable areas, Bridgepointe was designed to help families grow closer as they grow older. 

At Bridgepointe, residents enjoy the privacy and dignity of living in their own apartment as well as the peace of mind that comes from the support and assistance of a special team of caregivers. In short, we help our residents live life to its fullest. 

Our community is designed to promote activity, interaction, socialization and enjoyment. We offer a variety of engaging activities daily, from yoga and tai chi to gardening and arts and crafts. At Bridgepointe, there’s never a dull moment and always something to do! 

Discover a rich and fulfilling lifestyle combined with personalized care and support delivered by a team of experienced professionals … all within a secure, elegantly appointed community.

We invite you to visit today and discover how Bridgepointe at Ashgrove Woods can change your life for the better!

To learn more, contact us today!