For those with Alzheimer’s disease, the ability to communicate changes significantly. Therefore, those caring for them must also learn new communication skills to continue to have engaging conversations and interact with the ones they love. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients find it challenging to clearly express their emotions and thoughts, which can cause confusion, anxiety, and anger. Do not take it personally if they lash out at you while experiencing these emotions.

As a caregiver or family member, you should always remind them that you love them and are by their side. You can diffuse an awkward moment with just a smile and a squeeze of the hand.

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Don’t Correct, Affirm Them

When individuals with Alzheimer’s disease do not recognize their surroundings, they might say, “I want to go home.” Instead of trying to tell them that they no longer live in their family home – or trying to remind them about moving to this new facility – indulge the emotion they are experiencing. Ask them about their home, where it is, what is special about it. Telling these stories is likely to comfort them and soothe some of their anxiety about feeling out of place. Feel free to add your own memories and stories to validate their memories and emotions about them. While they are talking, listen for cues about things you can do to make them feel more comfortable – whether it is bringing a favorite time to their room or hanging photos of places and people they are thinking about.

Activities Inspire Engaging Conversations

Find an activity that will be fun for them, such as cooking a simple meal, playing a game, or working on an easy art project can offer an excellent opportunity to focus your conversation on something tangible. Here in South Florida, this time of year is wonderful for taking a walk outside. Being out in nature provides the perfect environment to talk about your surroundings, and any animals, trees, or sights you may see.

Ignore the Repetition

When your loved one begins to repeat themself and asks the same question over and over, practice patience and simply answer their question as many times as necessary. Telling them that they are repeating themselves may cause them to feel embarrassed, frustrated, or confused, and the conversation may shut down. Instead of getting frustrated yourself, try to answer questions in such a way that you can lead the topic in a different direction. By using segues to guide their train of thought, engaging conversations can ensue. If your loved one is reluctant to talk, ask easy questions that only require “yes” or “no” answers until they open up.

Remember: The more you remind them of details of their life, giving names and times in your conversations, the easier it will be for them to communicate without feeling embarrassed.

While interaction with your loved one may have changed, you can still have engaging conversations and meaningful moments. By practicing some new communication strategies, you can establish a new way of relating to those you love. As a final reminder, if you do lose patience, forgive yourself. These situations are difficult and can be emotional as well. Remember that the important thing is that you are spending quality time with your loved ones, and giving them the confidence and emotional support they need as they navigate their dementia.

If your loved one is in need of a senior residence specializing in memory care, we invite you to call A Banyan Residence in Venice. We would love to speak with you and explore your options at our beautiful facility.