July 1, 2022

Communication Challenges

By Lorrie Blumberg
CASI Director of Senior Services

Communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s or Dementia can be challenging and frustrating. You’ll need patience and good listening skills so you and the person are not confused, frustrated, and misunderstood. Here are a few simple things to help with communication.

A person with dementia may have difficulty remembering words or communicating clearly. They may show signs of the following:

  • Having trouble with finding the right word
  • Substituting words that don’t make sense
  • Describing an object rather than naming it
  • Repeating words, stories or questions
  • Losing a train of thought
  • Speaking less often or not at all.

What you can do to ease this and better your communication:

  • Be patient. Take time to listen and allow time for the person with dementia to talk without interruption.
  • Learn to interpret. Try to understand what is being said based on the context. If the person is struggling to get an idea out, offer a guess.
  • Be connected. Make eye contact while communicating and call the person by name. Hold hands while talking.
  • Be aware of your nonverbal cues. Speak calmly. Keep your body language relaxed.
  • Offer comfort. If a person with dementia is having trouble communicating, let him or her know it’s OK and provide gentle encouragement.
  • Show respect. Avoid baby talk and diminutive phrases, such as “good girl.” Don’t talk about the person as if he or she weren’t there.
  • Avoid distractions. Limit visual distractions and background noise, such as a TV or radio, that can make it difficult to hear, listen attentively or concentrate.
  • Keep it simple. Use short sentences. As the disease progresses, ask questions that require a yes or no answer. Break down requests into single steps.
  • Offer choices. Offer choices when making a request for something a person might resist. For example, “Would you like to take a shower before dinner or after dinner?”
  • Avoid criticizing, correcting and arguing. Don’t correct mistakes. Avoid arguing when the person says something you disagree with. Stay in their reality not yours.
  • Take breaks. If you’re frustrated, take a timeout.

Lorrie Blumberg is Director of Senior Services at  CASI, located at 1035 W. Kimberly Road, Davenport, IA  52806. For information call (563) 386.7477 or email info@CASIseniors.org.

Filed Under: Health & Wellness

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