Alzheimer’s Disease: 5 Tips for Caregivers to Improve Communication

How can Speech Associates of NY Help You?Every 67 seconds another person in the United States develops Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s not only irreversibly changes the lives of its victims, but also the lives of their loved ones. Today, in honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we dedicate this blog to the caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease impacts an individual’s cognitive and linguistic abilities, which can make communication increasingly difficult as the disease progresses. However, there are strategies you can use to improve the quality of your communication with your loved one to increase both their and your quality of life.

  1. Don’t Rush: Speak at a relaxed, easy pace, and pause between each sentence. Look for signs of confusion to see if you may need to repeat yourself. Allow the other person ample time to formulate a response.
  2. Ask Simple Questions: Ask yes/no questions whenever possible, or decrease the number of possible choices. For example, instead of asking, “What would you like to drink?” you might want to ask, “Do you want coffee or tea?”
  3. Watch Your Nonverbal Communication: People with Alzheimer’s can often pick-up on nonverbal signals like tone of voice, facial expression, and body language, long after their linguistic abilities begin to decrease. If you’re frustrated or agitated, it’s likely to be communicated in your tone or body language, and your loved one may become agitated as well. While it’s important to acknowledge your own feelings as a caregiver, try to do so in a way that does not cause additional stress to your loved one.
  4. Get their Attention: Before speaking, get the other person’s attention by positioning yourself at eye level and making physical contact, for example, by lightly touching their shoulder. If the person is fully focused before you begin speaking, they have a better chance of understanding.
  5. Incorporate Visual Cues: Adding visual elements to your communication can help get your message across. For example, if you’re asking whether the individual would like some ketchup, hold up the bottle as you ask.

For more tips on communicating with your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, take a look at this video by Speech Associates of NY President, Jayne Latz.

Want to learn more? If you have any questions or would like to know more about speech-language therapy, give me a call at (212) 308-7725 or send an e-mail to jayne@speechassociatesofny.com. I’d be happy to chat and answer any questions you may have.

© 2015, Speech Associates of New York – All Rights Reserved

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