As Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month continues, we want to discuss a very important topic- communication and Alzheimer’s. As the disease progresses, a person’s ability to communicate gradually diminishes. Changes in communication vary from person to person, but there are several common issues you can expect to see, including difficulty finding the right words and organizing words logically.
If someone you love is living with the disease, you know it can be challenging at times to communicate with them. The video above discusses the following ten tips for effectively communicating with your loved one.
Never argue. Instead, listen.
Never reason. Instead, divert.
Never shame. Instead, distract.
Never lecture. Instead, reassure.
Never say ‘remember.’ Instead, reminisce.
Never say ‘you can’t.’ Instead, remind them what they can do.
Being aware of things like your tone, how loud your voice is, how you look at them, and your body language
Encouraging two-way conversation for as long as possible
Using other methods, such as gently touching
Distracting the person if communication creates problems
You also want to encourage the person to communicate with you. You can do this by doing things like holding their hand while you talk and showing a warm, loving manner. It is also important to be patient with angry outbursts and remember that it is just the illness talking.
If The Person is Aware of Memory Loss
Since the disease is being diagnosed at earlier stages, many people are aware of how it is impacting their memory. This can make communication even more sensitive because they may become frustrated when they are aware of the memory loss. Here are some tips for how to help someone who knows they have memory problems.
Take time to listen. They may want to talk about the changes they are noticing
Be as sensitive as you can and try to understand it is a struggle for them to communicate. Don’t correct them every time they forget something or say something odd
Be patient when they have a difficult time finding the right words
Find a balance between helping them find the right words and putting words in their mouth
Be aware of nonverbal communication. As they lose the ability to speak clearly, they may rely on other ways to communicate their thoughts and feelings
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease and how it impacts communication, visit the links or reach out to the contacts below:
If you are caring for a loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s disease, you do not need us to tell you that it’s not easy. This progressive disease is difficult to cope with – for both the person living with it and their loved ones. People living with Alzheimer’s may become frustrated when they find themselves struggling to do things they used to do without any problem. And it is hard for you, as the caregiver, to watch the person they once were gradually fade away. They may have brief moments of clarity where it feels like they are themselves again; only to break your heart when the moment is gone.
While there is nothing anyone can do or say to “fix” what you and your loved one are going through, we want you to know you do not have to face it alone. The Alzheimer’s Association has an abundance of resources for both those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. There are support and educational programs available for both, as well. Take advantage of these resources. They are there to help make things a little easier.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
It all starts with gaining a better understanding of the disease and how it progresses. Alzheimer’s leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. This results in the brain shrinking dramatically over time which impacts nearly all its functions.
Although scientists are not completely certain what causes cell death and tissue loss in a brain affected by Alzheimer’s, plaques and tangles appear to be the culprits. Plaques form when protein pieces called beta-amyloid clump together, and tangles destroy a vital cell transport system made up of proteins. Plaques and tangles tend to spread through the cortex in a predictable pattern as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, but the rate of progression varies greatly.
In the earliest stages, plaques and tangles begin to form in brain areas involved in learning and memory, as well as thinking and planning. In this stage, a person can still function independently but may start to notice they are sometimes forgetting familiar words or where to find everyday objects.
Someone in this stage may struggle to:
Think of the right word or name for something
Remember the name of someone they just met
Remember something they just read
Plan or organize things
In the middle stage, more plaques and tangles develop in the regions of the brain important for memory, thinking, and planning. This leads to the development of problems with memory or thinking that are severe enough to interfere with work or social life. In this stage, someone with Alzheimer’s may have trouble handling money, expressing themselves, and organizing their thoughts. Plaques and tangles also spread to areas involved in speaking and understanding speech and the sense of where your body is in relation to objects around you. It is in this stage that many people are first diagnosed.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but may include:
Forgetting events or personal history
Feeling moody or withdrawn
Being unable to recall personal information such as their address
Confusion about what day it is or where they are
Most of the cortex is seriously damaged by the time someone reaches the late stage of Alzheimer’s disease. By this point, the brain shrinks dramatically due to widespread cell death. Individuals often lose their ability to communicate, recognize family and loved ones, and to care for themselves in this stage.
In this stage, symptoms are severe and may include:
Need for around-the-clock personal care
Loss of awareness of recent experiences and their surroundings
Changes in physical abilities such as walking and eventually swallowing
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