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Assisted Living Locators September 2022 Blog

Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Tips for Better Communication

Rethinking your listening and speaking strategies can help you communicate with a person who has dementia.

Communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia can be challenging.

A family member or friend with dementia may have difficulty understanding you, and you may have a hard time understanding what he or she is trying to communicate. There’s potential for misunderstanding, confusion or frustration in both directions — making communication even more difficult.

You’ll need patience, good listening skills and new strategies. Here’s help easing your frustration and improving your communication.

What to expect

A person with dementia may have difficulty remembering words or communicating clearly. You might notice patterns in conversations, including:

  • Having trouble with finding the right word
  • Substituting words
  • Describing an object rather than naming it
  • Repeating words, stories or questions
  • Mixing unrelated ideas or phrases together
  • Losing a train of thought
  • Speaking less often
  • Reverting to a first language

What you can do to help

To improve understanding in both directions:

  • 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. But you need to give them time to communicate, but you want to avoid them getting frustrated.  At the right time, saying something like “I bet you mean….” is conversational, non-threatening and reaffirms what they are thinking
  • 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 and perhaps suggest they describe what they want to say.
  • 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, if someone is reluctant to shower, you might say, “Would you like to take a shower before dinner or after dinner?”
  • Use visual cues. Sometimes gestures or other visual cues promote better understanding than words alone. Rather than asking if the person needs to use the toilet, for example, take him or her to the toilet and point to it.
  • Avoid criticizing, correcting and arguing. Don’t correct mistakes. Avoid arguing when the person says something you disagree with.
  • Take breaks. If you’re frustrated, take a timeout.

The challenges of communication evolve as the disease progresses. You will likely find that nonverbal communication with your family member or friend — such as touch or the comforting sound of your voice — will become not only important but also meaningful.

For more helpful information please reach out to your local Assisted Living Locators senior care advisor today!

Fun Fall Activities for Dementia

Loving Senior Couple On Walk Through Autumn Countryside Resting By Gate

There are a variety of fun fall activities that you and your loved one with dementia can enjoy, including:

Early and Middle Stage Dementia Activities

  • Bake a seasonal brain-healthy dish together, using seasonal foods such as apples, pumpkin and squash.
  • Go on an autumn walk to enjoy the fall leaves and talk about any birds or nature you see, the colors of the leaves changing and the species of trees.
  • Make some autumn-themed crafts. 
  • Rake leaves or do some simple fall clean up in the yard.
  • Visit an apple orchard or a pumpkin patch and buy some seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Late Stage Dementia Activities

  • Bake a fall-themed dish for your loved one and allow them to smell the scent of fall cooking and eat a tasty, brain healthy meal or treat.
  • Collect fall leaves and other nature items and bring them indoors for your loved one to feel, smell and see.
  • Make a homemade potpourri out of fall seasonings such as cinnamon and cloves, add to a pan of water and cook on low heat with citrus fruit peelings and apples to fill the room with the scent of fall baking.

Limited Mobility Activities

  • Bird watching.Try putting out some bird feeders in the yard to see a nature show from the comfort of your kitchen window or living room.
  • Crocheting, knitting or sewing. Many older adults are comforted by — and are excellent at — these activities.
  • Organize a fall themed book club.Organizing a book club with a few close friends or relatives is a great way to ensure caregivers and those with dementia, maintain social contact with others. Socializing is considered a vital brain healthy activity and what better way to get together with others than to be involved in a group discussion about an interesting read. Make sure that the get-togethers are kept short and that the person with dementia is kept in the loop of the group dialogue.
  • Reading.Reading is a great activity for seniors and it’s been found to improve cognitive function and memory and reduce stress. Read a fall-themed story together.
  • Listen to music together. Music has been found to help improve cognition and memory and it’s one of the top brain-healthy activities you can do with your loved one with dementia. 
  • Finding fun fall activities for you and a loved one with dementia just takes a little creativity and imagination.

These activities will help both caregivers and parents or senior loved ones with dementia fight boredom and improve cognitive function, sleep and more. Try to keep activities short and evaluate your loved one for signs of anxiety — which may be an indication to wrap up the activity.

Reach out to your local Assisted Living Locators senior care advisor today for more ideas on how we can help you and your loved ones!

PRO-TIP

For seniors with macular degeneration or other common eye diseases, add raised button stickers to certain phone buttons and TV remote control buttons to help them know which they need to press.

For example, Barbara has macular degeneration so she added bumps to the “Answer,” “2,” and “8” buttons on her phone to make it easier to use.

The same could be done for a TV remote control, adding bumps to the “On/Off”, channel and volume (up/down) buttons make them easier to find.