Navigating Changes in Communication
Alzheimer’s or another dementia will gradually affect a person’s ability to communicate. However, it’s important to understand that changes will be unique for each person, so there is no way of knowing in advance what those specific changes might be. We do know, however, that with early dementia, it generally takes longer to process what’s being said. Some of the other ways that communication may be affected are:
- Needing more time to decide how to respond especially when trying to answer a direct question
- Having problems finding the right words
- Losing your train of thought
- Repeating words, stories, or questions
While these changes can be very frustrating at times, it’s important to remember that the person you’re caring for is not doing it on purpose and they can’t control it. It is a part of the illness.
People with early dementia often need more time to process what’s being said to them. Give them extra time to answer or to respond to you. It’s also important to refrain from asking too many direct questions, as this can be overwhelming and will often cause their minds to simply go blank. Communication can be enhanced by speaking clearly, in shorter sentences, and by talking about one thing at a time.
If you notice your loved one having trouble with communication, here are some tips that may be helpful to you:
- Slow down and take your time when they’re having a hard time finding the right words.
- Encourage them to describe the person, place, or thing that they’re talking about if they can’t recall the right word(s). Sometimes this will lead to the word they’re looking for.
- Be aware that too much background noise can be distracting and make it more difficult to talk with others.