One of the most frustrating parts of disease and other dementias is how they hinder a person’s ability to communicate. If someone you love has one of these diseases, they may experience increasing challenges with language. And you might find it increasingly difficult to understand your loved one.
People with Alzheimer’s may experience cognitive changes such as speaking less frequently, repeatedly using the same words, inventing new words, having problems organizing words into sentences, and losing one’s train of thought. That’s per the Chicago-based nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association. “Communication with a person with Alzheimer’s requires patience, understanding and good listening skills,” says the organization, on its website.
We hope the following quiz will be helpful if you are struggling to communicate with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Ask yourself:
1. Am I kind and respectful?
2. Do I avoid “talking down” to my loved one or speaking as if he or she isn’t in the room?
3. Do I refer to my loved one by name and make eye contact while we are talking?
4. Do I identify myself to my loved one when I am speaking to him or her?
5. Am I calm and reassuring when my loved one is having trouble communicating something?
6. Do I eliminate distractions that could disrupt conversation?
7. Do I find a calm, quiet place where we can converse?
8. Do I use simple, easy-to-understand words and phrases and ask “yes” or “no” questions when possible?
9. Do I use nonverbal cues to help communicate ideas? For example, if I am offering food do I show what’s being served?
10. Do I ask my loved one to point at something he or she may be trying to name?
11. Do I read my loved one’s body language for clues as to how he or she might be feeling?
12. Do I repeat myself in a thoughtful and supportive manner if my loved one doesn’t understand me?
13. Do I try to guess what my loved one means when he or she can’t find the right word to express something?
14. Do I avoid criticizing my loved one, arguing with him, or complaining about her difficultly communicating?
15. Am I patient, and do I keep trying even when a conversation becomes difficult or frustrating?
In a perfect world, you could answer yes to all the previous questions. But Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can be incredibly taxing on caregivers as well as those who are afflicted with it. For help, visit the following resources: