8.08.2016 Mary Yamin-Garone, Podcast on Language, Speech and Alzhimer’s, Part II
Good afternoon. Welcome to Demystifying Alzheimer’s. I’m your hostess Mary Yamin-Garone.
Saturday’s podcast was on language, speech and Alzheimer’s. I’ll focus more on that today.
Communication between the caregiver and the individual with Alzheimer’s is an extremely important—and often difficult—part of the caregiving process. Oftentimes, those in the moderate stage of the disease become angry or agitated because they don’t understand what’s expected of them. They could be frustrated by their inability to make themselves understood.
Be aware that in this stage, your loved one may repeat the same sounds or statements; use familiar words repeatedly, easily lose their train of thought; have difficulty organizing words logically; speak less often; or revert to their original language when trying to communicate.
Some individuals might insert the wrong word into a sentence. For example, your loved one might say, “I want to eat my hair” instead of “I want to comb my hair.” Show that you understand and don’t make a big deal about correcting them.
How you communicate with your loved one with Alzheimer’s will be different than it used to be. Here are some ways you can make it easier for everyone.
- Let them tell stories even if they repeat the same one over and over.
- Avoid expressions that can be taken too literally, such as “shake a leg” or “jump into bed.”
- Never argue with someone with Alzheimer’s. They’ll only become angry, more confused and frustrated. Think about the point you’re arguing about. Is it life threatening? Is it about going into a busy street during rush hour? If it is, then you have to keep safety in mind. However, if it’s over whether your father is wearing brown or black pants then don’t waste your time or energy.
- Listen sensitively to laments, such as “It’s so difficult” or “I don’t know what to do” and commiserate with the confusion your loved one is experiencing. If possible, laugh together about how ridiculous life can be.
- Try to be at eye level when you speak with someone with Alzheimer’s.
- Use short, simple sentences that express one main idea.
- Avoid complex language that people with AD may have trouble understanding. Pause between sentences and allow plenty of time for them to understand and process the information.
- Always approach your loved one slowly and face them when speaking. Be aware of your facial expressions. They may interpret your mood from your expression, especially if you’re frustrated with their behavior.
- Try to eliminate background noise and have conversations in quiet settings to prevent them from being distracted and receiving confusing or conflicting messages.
- Take whatever time is needed to respond to what your loved one is attempting to articulate, ask or share with you. It can turn into a frustrating guessing game until the information is fully understood. Despite the difficulty, it’s important to maintain communication.
- Use a nondemanding approach. Humor or a gentle tease often helps caregivers through difficult situations. Convincing someone to get out of bed or to the bathroom is usually easier if you make a game or joke out of it.
- Win your loved one’s trust. This can make a task simpler, especially if you spend time talking before beginning the task at hand. Talk about the weather, family members or some other reassuring topic to help them get in a relaxed frame of mind.
- As your loved one becomes more impaired, they’ll lose their ability to understand words. You may need to say, “Here’s your dinner at this table” instead of “It’s time for dinner.” They may also revert to words from their childhood or earlier in life so that “Do you need to go to the bathroom” may not be as easily understood as “Do you have to pee?”
- Talk in a warm, easy-going, pleasant manner. Use a tone of voice you’d like people to use with you.
- Keep the pitch of your voice low. When a person doesn’t immediately understand, there’s a tendency to shout. This will upset the individual with Alzheimer’s and make commnication even more difficult.
- Redirect your loved one if they become agitated by moving on to another activity or topic of conversation.
- Keep your hands away from your face when you’re talking.
- Avoid mumbling or talking with your mouth full.
Communication becomes even more difficult in the late or severe stage of Alzheimer’s, making it harder to determine how much the individual comprehends. Don’t assume they don’t understand your words of comfort and assurance, even if they don’t respond. They may recognize statements or movements.
As a caregiver, you should always look for new ways to communicate with your loved one using all of the senses.
- Accept and expect communication to consist of single words or gestures.
- Be attuned to nonverbal communication, like closing the lips tightly to refuse food or pulling on their clothing, indicating pain or anxiety.
- Be open to all types of communication.
Remember, non-verbal communication is just as important for someone with Alzheimer’s. Your presence, touch, gestures and attention can remind them of your acceptance, reassurance and love.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I hope you found this information helpful.
Join me next time for more Demystifying Alzheimer’s.