Coping with Communication Challenges

Communication is difficult for those living with Alzheimer’s.  As the illness progresses, patients often struggle to find the right words, or forget what they want to say.  Caregivers, too, become frustrated when they cannot understand what their loved one tries to convey to them.

Some communication challenges resulting from Alzheimer’s disease include:

–Trouble finding the right word when speaking (should word be plural)

–Difficulty understanding what is said

–Disruption of the individual’s train-of-thought

–Forgetting everyday processes, i.e., getting dressed, doing laundry

–Frustration when communication is not understood

Caregivers can offset these and other communication challenges, as well as connect more readily with their loved one, by following some simple suggestions:

–Make eye contact and/or call the patient by name

–Be aware of their own voice tone and volume

-Approach individual head on and not from behind

–Continue to encourage two-way conversation for as long as the patient is able

–Engage in methods of communication other than speaking, such as writing down thoughts

or reading out loud

–Distract the patient with another activity if verbal communication becomes too difficult, i.e.,

serving a snack or taking a walk around the neighborhood

It is important to speak simply, effectively, and respectfully to someone living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  This can be accomplished by consistently offering simple, step-by-step instructions; by repeating those instructions when necessary and allowing as much time as necessary for a response; and by not addressing the patient in “baby talk,” or in a “baby-like voice.”  Caregivers must consistently demonstrate a warm, loving manner toward their loved one and remain patient when communication challenges cause frustration and angry outbursts to occur.

There will be goods days and bad, but remember it is the illness that is causing the behavior.