October 09, 2017 in: communicating with person living with Alzheimer’s,
One of the most common difficulties that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients experience is ongoing personality changes, which causes a disconnection and makes it harder to connect to this world. Alzheimer’s makes the patient feel lost, misunderstood, and most often angry at their own condition. They may not remember what is going on with around them at any given moment, creating a great amount of frustration.
It is often difficult to talk to these patients because they are not on the same mental plane as you are; they are in and out of our reality making it difficult to understand and regulate emotion. Here are some simple ways to effectively communicate with a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s so they feel more comfortable and understood.
For an Alzheimer’s patient, everything can be a potential trigger. Lower down TV volumes, if there is a radio playing then turn it off, and make sure surroundings remain calm and quiet. This will lessen their chances of losing track of the conversation.
It is very easy for the patient to feel overwhelmed with so many people present around them, which is why you should ensure that when you talk to them, you keep the conversation one-on-one so they do not feel left out, confused, or distracted.
Whenever talking to Alzheimer’s patient, maintain full eye contact with them so they can feel your full attention being on them. This way they will feel connected to you and the context of your conversation. This rule applies to any kind of conversation you may have with them. It helps them feel like they are heard and not lose track of what you are talking about.
A loved one with Alzheimer’s will have a different meaning of reality. They are holding onto fragments of memories and making realities out of those fragments. They might think their long dead spouse is still alive or they are still living in their old house. It is not the outer reality that they are seeing but an inner one. It is not helpful to correct them every time, rather it might confuse them more and cause them to become frustrated. This is why it is advised that you should play along and follow whatever they are saying and makeup stories with them as long as their reality is not hurting them or anyone around them.
Use their bodily behavior to understand their confusion or state of distress. They might not be able to express their emotions properly but their body language will indicate any frustration they may be feeling. So pay close attention to their movements and try to help them in moments of frustration.