Different types of dementia, Alzheimer’s, a stroke, a brain injury: these all have an impact on a person’s ability to communicate, making conversation with others extremely difficult. As time is often limited for assisted living staff who provide care, this obstacle is particularly upsetting and challenging.
Visiting family members and friends may also find that the limited communication with their loved ones is frustrating and at times painful.
You cannot change what happened to cause the impaired communication, but you can change how you approach it. Here are a few ideas to help you bridge the gaps:
1. Talking isn’t always necessary. You can enjoy each other’s company and don’t have to talk at all. Non-verbal communication is just as important to a relationship as verbal communication. Hold your mother’s hand. Put your arm around your grandfather’s shoulders. Maintain eye contact. Smile. Cry together. Laugh together.
2. If possible, write your conversations. Use a notepad, chalk/whiteboard, laptop, or an electronic tablet like the iPad.
3. Above all, don’t let your feelings and frustrations prevent you from visiting, from calling, from staying in touch with your family member or friend. Remember, they too are dealing with their own frustrations and feelings about not being able to express themselves the way they once did.
Read Visiting in Alzheimer’s Care When Recognition Is Gone for more insights on what can be a traumatic time for the caregiver and the person with Alzheimer’s.