Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that progressively worsens. In a post about important things to remember if you have a loved one with this disease, alzheimers.net succinctly addresses one of its worst side effects: “As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, it becomes easier to forget that your loved one is still present. Many caregivers are frustrated by their loved one’s inability to communicate their thoughts or remember faces and names. The disease eventually takes away independence so that caregivers become the feet, hands, and minds of people struggling with dementia.” Remembering this reality can go a long way in helping you find patience. Here at Syncare Memory Suites, a private memory care home in Minnesota, we understand the many challenges that come for the families of those living with Alzheimer’s. Communication is one of them. It can be difficult, but it’s helpful to remember that effective communication with someone who has dementia is a learned skill. Here are five communication tips when loved one has Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s can create frustrating or alarming experiences. Do your best to remember that your loved one isn’t trying to be difficult on purpose — this is the disease itself. Stay calm, and avoid getting upset or overly emotional with your loved one. Elevated feelings will only complicate the situation and make it more difficult for everyone. Practice taking deep, even breaths, counting slowly to ten, or stepping outside for a moment to collect yourself. These techniques will help you regain control so that you can manage the situation as calmly as possible.
Maintain Steady Eye Contact
Staying engaged with your loved one is important, and steady eye contact is a critical element of active listening. Good listening skills require a certain degree of self awareness, so practice making a conscious effort to hear not just the words being spoken, but the message behind it. It’s a learned skill and it can be difficult with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, but it will help you interpret what’s being said based on context. You should expect your loved one to struggle to find the right words, substitute words, repeat themselves, or lose their train of thought, and anticipating these patterns can help you manage them more effectively.
Make Notes & Keep Lists
You can’t expect your loved one to remember things like doctor’s appointments or check-ups, so don’t set them up for failure. Writing down notes and keeping lists of things like medications and important names and phone numbers will help your loved one better manage their disease. Keep these notes and lists easily accessible so they can see them throughout the day.
Don’t waste your energy arguing over trivial issues. Remind yourself again that the disease is the culprit, and your loved one isn’t being deliberately obtuse or combative. Speaking calmly and rationally is a much better tactic, so focus on this approach when your loved one is arguing about something minor.
Encourage Independence as Appropriate
Your loved one’s level of independence may be greatly limited, but encourage them to do some things on their own. It may be something as simple as making their own coffee or tying their own shoes, but it’s important to let them do what they can for themselves.
Outside help can sometimes be the best tool for you and your loved one. A private memory care home like Syncare puts you back in the role of loved one so that you have more patience and time. Learn more about our approach to specialized memory care — contact us today.