Good communication can decrease or even prevent many behavior problems. So what’s the best way to communicate with your loved one?
The number one tip to remember is to treat your loved one as an individual with a disease, not a diseased individual. He has an entire history of life that stays with him throughout this journey. He will continue to have many of the same characteristics he had before. If he was laid back before, he may be more so now. If he had high energy/anxiety, he may be tightly wound now as well.
All people need to have their feelings validated. A person with Alzheimer’s is no different. In fact, because of memory loss and insecurity issues, he or she may need it even more. An example: Your father who has Alzheimer’s is angry with your husband most of the time. They have had a great relationship in the past, but now your father blames him for everything. As difficult as it is, keep in mind that it’s the dementia talking, not your father. You can say, “I don’t blame you for being angry” and then move on. What he is feeling is real to him, even if it is not accurate. You will probably have to coach your husband as well. Let him know that this action isn’t against him personally; it is the nature of the illness and “this too shall pass.”
Individuals with Alzheimer’s respond well to affirmation. When they do anything, no matter how insignificant it may be to you, praise them with “good job” or “thank you.”
– When beginning a conversation, identify yourself. If your loved one says “I know who you are,” laugh or say something humorous.
– Slow down when you speak and use short simple sentences.
– Ask one question at a time. Give adequate time for response. Yes/no questions are best.
– When speaking, maintain eye contact.
– Lower the tone of your voice; a high pitch may be interpreted as anger.
– Eliminate distracting noise. Turn off the TV or radio, or go to another room to talk.
– Smile and be pleasant.
– Use touch to get attention (hand on shoulder, hand on knee, hand on hand).
– When your loved one is upset and you can’t communicate, try a hug. Soon anger will be forgotten and you can try again.
– Be aware of their body language. A sudden sit-to-stand change in position may indicate the need to go to the bathroom or some other kind of discomfort. Be aware of your body language too – try not to appear tense.
– Don’t argue.
– Don’t order the person around or be condescending.
– Don’t talk about your loved one as if he isn’t there; you never know just how aware he might be