Communication is important for the well-being of every human being. Therefore, communication issues for someone suffering with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease should be addressed as early as possible. Let's take a moment to look what they will eventually face as their Alzheimer's disease progresses beyond the early stages.
Imagine not being about to tell others how you feel. Imagine not understanding the things that are being said to you. You can hear the words, and the speaker (whoever they are) acts like you ought to know what is being said, but you haven’t the foggiest idea.
Fortunately, the communication issues that your loved one will face in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease are not this difficult. Your loved one however will begin to struggle; and as their communication difficulties increase so will their frustration.
Alzheimer’s Causes Changes in Communication
Some of the earliest difficulties that your loved one experiences with communication have often been considered common to those who are getting older, but this is not the case.
You may notice that they are having a hard time finding the right word or words to express themselves. When trying to find the right word, they may use words that are similar, such as saying “arm clock” when they really mean “wrist watch”. This may require you to think creatively to try to discern their meaning. Another example would be saying “wet furry dish” instead of “cat water bowl”. The associations are still present but the words are evasive. Nouns seem to be the first words that are lost from their vocabulary.
They may also use a word that sounds similar to the word they intended to use, such as “cat door” instead of “car door” or “log” instead of “dog”.
Eventually, when they cannot come up with a word at all, they may use terms like that “thing”, the “whatchamacallit”, or that “thing-a-ma-jiggy”. They may say something like, “I need to … down here” while pointing at their crotch instead of “I need to go to the bathroom.”
If you try to help your loved one find the right word, they may become upset with you and with themselves. Usually it is best to allow them the time they need to come up with the word on their own. Patience is a skill that needs to be developed to successfully navigate the Alzheimer’s journey that is in front of you. Now is as good a time to start as any.
As the Alzheimer’s disease progresses, their difficulties with language will increase. The short term memory loss will cause them to become forgetful of what they just said or what you just said. They may ask the same question over and over again. Or they might share the same information with you multiple times.
The best way to deal with them repeating themselves is to act as if this is the very first time that they are sharing the information with you, because to them, that is precisely what just happened. So respond to them as you would if this were the first time you were hearing this information, and then quickly redirect the conversation onto a different topic to free them from the loop that they become caught up in.
As they are sharing information, they may become confused and forget what they were talking about before they are able to complete their thought. Gaps will develop in their conversations as they struggle to find the next word to complete their sentence. Again, patience will be your best tool when these communication issues arise.
Communication Issues and Tips to Deal with the Early Stages of Alzheimer’s Senior Care
Two things that I woulCredit: created by author using Printmasterd like to re-iterate before continuing. Patience cannot be stressed enough. Slow down and give them the time they need to formulate their thoughts. This will go a long way in enhancing their life and making it easier on everyone involved – them and you.
The second thing is that if they are sharing something with you, they do not realize that they have already shared this information with you 20 times in the last hour. Therefore, you must act as if this is the first time you are hearing what they are sharing.
Let’s look now at other communication issues and tips to deal with them:
- To help your loved one focus on what is being said to them; remove distractions while trying to carry on a conversation. Distractions could include the radio, television or any other thing that would distract them from the conversation.
- When speaking to someone who has Alzheimer’s disease, keep your statements short and to the point. Speak slightly slower giving them more time to absorb what you are saying. If you find that you need to repeat yourself, use the same short and to the point statement. Do not speak to them as if they are a child.
- If your loved one is responding to a question you have asked of them, and they lose their thought, calmly ask the same question again.
- Give your loved one as much time as they need to formulate their thoughts and to verbalize their thoughts with interrupting them. Help them find the words they are looking for only when they have asked for help, or you have obtained their permission to do so.
- If they continue to have difficulty formulating their thoughts, ask them to point to what they are talking about to help them get their point across.
- Sometimes just paying attention to their body language can tell you more than their words can. Feelings and emotions such as pain, anger and frustration are easily read. And something to think about here, even though they may not comprehend what you are saying, they very often understand your body language. It is important that you smile and have patience at all times. Your body language will have an impact on them.
Perception of Time and Alzheimer’s Disease
Imagine not ever remembering the last minute – what you said, what you did, or what someone said to you. It would be just like that minute never happened. When looking at it this way, it is easy to see how someone with Alzheimer’s disease and the accompanying short-term memory loss has difficulty with the passage of time. It should not be surprising then that the passage of “one minute”, “one hour” or even “four hours” seems the same to your loved one. These time periods are forgotten a little at a time as they are occurring.
They Have Alzheimer’s Disease – You Do Not
Your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. What does this mean as far as communication goes? It means that you will be required to make the changes that are required to help them deal with their communication issues because they cannot.
Older Comments... (This article was moved from another one of my sites to here, and fully updated April 28, 2012)
(wouldn't want you to miss some of the great comments others have shared!)
WillStarr - My dad was almost totally deaf in his later years, and one thing that stunned my entire family when Dad had Alzheimers, was his sudden ability to hear normally without his hearing aids. Apparently, that is not unheard of with the disease. Perhaps we can learn something from that. There's a silver lining in everything.
Aunt Mollie - A very kind, and loving article. Enjoyed it.
DonnaCosmato - What a wonderful guide to anyone who is caring for or needing to communicate with someone who has this debilitating disease:)
vocalcoach - Cindy - Thanks for the tips on communicating with someone with Alzheimers. A big help! Appreciate be informed on this. I spend 15 years entertaining patients with musical shows. If I had known then what I learned from you now - it would have been a huge help. Great hub!
molometer - Hello Cindy, I knew I had read a hub, a while back, on this terrible condition and couldn't remember where it was. Thankfully I found it again, and it is your excellent work. I am bookmarking this and will work my way through the series. These well written, practical and detailed advice hubs, are so helpful and needed, to explain how to try to help us, help those, suffering from this diabolical condition. Voted up shared everywhere, interesting and useful.
Pollyannalana - I always petted and hugged my mom when she was trying to tell me something and being around her so much I could usually figure it out (I never let her get hungry so I always knew that was not it) and although sometimes it would evade her completely usually just sitting and bringing up things would remind her and many times she was trying to tell me she had pain although even in that they do not know the exact locations with many of them being so eaten up with arthritis. I think it is very important they be given pain medicine regularly because they can't tell us and some things we can common sense an answer. Sometimes too, bringing up something like dessert or something they like especially will make them forget they were groping for a thought and make them happy.
AudreyHowitt - This is such a wonderfully informative and empathic hub--congratulations!
Just Ask Susan - I heard something the other day about AD and was wondering if you knew anything about this. People that have their own teeth when they are older do not tend to develop AD as often as someone that wears dentures. Sorry to go off topic but after reading your hub I just remembered hearing this. Great article. My Dad had the onset of AD shortly before he died and it was pretty heartbreaking.
kikalina - Yet another great article from you! Thanks!