A Caregiver’s Guide to Communicating with Alzheimer’s Sufferers
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive illness that gradually affects the way a person communicates. It also hinders their ability to present rational ideas and to reason clearly.
Communication is critical for everyone. As a caregiver, you need to be able to connect with your service user regardless of their condition. Read on to find tips on how to communicate with individuals who have AD.
Avoid Asking Too Many Questions
People with AD can be easily frustrated or can become withdrawn if they find it hard to understand the question or can’t find the answer.
To cope with that, consider asking one question at a time. To simplify questions, phrase them in a way that allows for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. For example, instead of asking them what they would like to drink, ask them if they would like a cup of tea. Alternatively, you can offer them choices, i.e. “Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?”
If the service user struggles to understand the question, you should rephrase your question rather than repeat it. You could also break down what you’re saying into smaller chunks so that it’s easier to take in. Equally, give them a moment to respond whenever you ask a question.
Maintain Eye Contact
It’s important to make and maintain eye contact when communicating with anyone who has AD. It’s a very intimate connection that helps to show that you’re paying attention and makes it easier for them to understand what you’re saying. Without eye contact, you may come across as disinterested in what they have to say; furthermore, eye contact also assures them that you’re being truthful.
Take the Physical Approach
Communication is more than just talking verbally. Non-verbal communications like gestures, body language, and facial expressions can and should all be used to help get your messages across.
Body language and physical contact become even more important when speech gets difficult for the Alzheimer’s sufferer. So think about what they can or cannot see from where they are; make sure that the light is on your face to ensure that they can see you clearly. To get their attention, try making eye contact, sitting next to them, and making minimal movement and sound, rather than trying to strike up a conversation with them straight away.
Keep a Sense of Humor
Laughter may not always be the best medicine, but it’s certainly a very effective one when it comes to communicating with a person with Alzheimer’s – because an individual can often retain their sense of humour even after they’ve been diagnosed with AD. Just be sensitive not to make them the butt of a practical joke, and be conscious of keeping the level of humour appropriate to their level of understanding.
Encourage Them to Communicate
We’ve all been there. We all find it frustrating when can’t get our message across effectively, or when we’re misunderstood. As a caregiver for someone who has AD, it’s paramount that you encourage them to communicate what they want, however they can.
If they’re having difficulty verbalising their thoughts, you should encourage them to use nonverbal communication as well – just be careful not to interrupt! Their reactions and body language can indicate whether they’ve understood you and how they feel, so pay close attention to what they’re trying to say. In case you’re not understanding fully, you should rephrase what you have understood and check to see if you’re correct.
For more tips on caring for people with Alzheimer’s, take a look at our blog. If you think you have what it takes to help people with AD lead fulfilling lives, you can use our job search now to look for homecare roles in your area.