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When a Loved One has Alzheimer's

by Amanda Fornecker

Caring for a loved one with a disease is a very difficult situation. But when they aren't coherent as to what's going on around them, it can be even more taxing on you. Alzheimer's not only affects your loved one, but their family and friends as well. Each Alzheimer's disease patient is different and each person experiences the disease in a different way, but the most important thing to focus on is communication skills. Whether you're the caregiver or just visiting a loved one in an Alzheimer's Care facility, you can benefit from these communication tips, as advised by the Alzheimer's Association.

1. Speak clearly, slowly, and with authority.
Most Alzheimer's disease patients have difficulty understanding what is being said around them. Be sure to pronounce each word and speak in command form, rather than asking a question. Do not present options, as the decision-making abilities of Alzheimer's disease patients are limited. Tell them in a polite way what they should be doing, using commands like eat, sleep, drink, sit, etc. Likewise, if you're considering an Alzheimer's Care facility, take note of how staff members speak to the residents to see if their communication skills are up to par.

2. Watch for forms of communication besides speech.
Sometimes Alzheimer's disease patients communicate with their hands to indicate what they want to do. Though their words may be saying one thing, their body language may be saying what they actually want. Do the same thing for them, too. If they cannot understand what you're trying to express, then use hand gestures or pictures to convey your thoughts. If using an Alzheimer's care facility, inform the professionals there about any unique or special ways to get through to your loved one.

3. Express your thoughts in a calm, soothing voice.
Oftentimes, Alzheimer's disease patients cannot understand what you're trying to say. This is frustrating for both you and your loved one. Instead of getting upset or raising your voice, keep your cool and in a calm voice repeat what you've just said. This will keep you from getting upset and prevent your loved one from getting frustrated. Take note of the tone of voice used at the Alzheimer's care facility you're considering as well, since your loved one's comfort is of the utmost importance.

4. Use simple sentences and repeat when necessary.
If you express a thought that is free of unnecessary clauses, you'll be able to convey what you want in a more understandable manner. Try to keep details to a minimum so that you don't throw too many facts at the Alzheimer's disease patient and you say the most vital information. Along those lines, good Alzheimer's care facilities will establish regular routines to help keep things simple and running smoothly, so try to get a sense of that when exploring your options.

5. Speak somewhere free of distractions.
An Alzheimer's disease patient can easily become distracted with the things going on around them, such as the television, young children, or the radio. Be sure to communicate with them on a one-on-one basis so they can focus on what you're saying to them. On that note, it's important to ask if there's an adequate amount of staffing at Alzheimer's care facilities to ensure that your loved one gets the attention he or she needs. Though communication with a loved one who is an Alzheimer's disease patient may be difficult, there are certainly ways to deal with this in a positive way. Remember to stay calm, clear, and supportive, and if necessary, place your loved one in an environment that does the same. Your support is what will keep you and your family going day to day.

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