Keeping the Communication Open

How to communicate when your loved one suffers from Alzheimer's disease

By Edie J. Adler
Published on LatinoLA: September 20, 2016

Keeping the Communication Open

If you're a regular reader of this amazing LatinoLA, you might know that I lost both of my beloved parents to Alzheimer's disease.

One of the many challenges when facing this monster, which kidnaps your brain and gets you lost in a labyrinth of your own mind, is how to effectively communicate.

Communication is an important part of life that helps us determine how we relate to others, and how they relate to us. When a person loses the ability to communicate effectively due to Alzheimer's or any other physical issue, they may also lose the ability to relate to the world around them. This situation might make them withdraw, creating additional challenges.

It becomes then, their caregiver's task to find methods and speaking patterns which adapt to their loved one's ability to speak and communicate. Please keep in mind, that although the person can no longer communicate, their feelings and emotions are still there. Now more than ever, they need to be treated with compassion and dignity.

Here are some tips I hope you find useful when communicating with your loved one:

• Pay attention, not only to their words, but their body language

• Keep your voice gentle and speak slowly

• Use their name, and always identify yourself

• Help them find their words, give simple choices

• Use nonverbal communication, such as eye contact, touch, gestures, facial expression, etc.

• Do not lose your patience. Don't say things like "You just said that!" or "Why can't you just listen?"

• Always approach your loved one from the front, and use gentle touch

• Acknowledge their feelings

• Use visual aids, such as pictures

• Help them reminisce. Ask questions about their childhood, for instance.

• If they start getting frustrated, distract them with a different activity.

When I was caring for my beloved parents, I also found it very helpful to use music. My father was a gifted guitarist, and even after my mother stopped talking, I could see that playing my dad's CD was extremely soothing, not just for her, but also for me. Getting her to bed became easier, once I started the music, and let her go to sleep listening to it.

I know firsthand how frustrating it can be when you can't communicate with your loved one when they suffer from Alzheimer's or any other type of dementia. I also know your patience and creativity in dealing with this situation will pay off.

About Edie J. Adler:
Edie J. is an author, actress, and advocate for people suffering from Alzheimer's and their caregivers. She and husband Neal live in the Valley with their 5 dogs, 4 and 2/4 cats, 3 birds and 1 disappearing turtle.
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