How You Can Learn To Communicate Better With A Loved One With Alzheimer’s

Watching a loved one struggle with Alzheimer’s or any other kind of dementia can be a deeply affecting experience for all those affected. Seeing someone that you’ve known for so long slowly becoming someone else is not only tough, but it can also be taxing for those who take care of them. Add on top of that the feeling of guilt associated with feeling ‘taxed’, and having a loved one go through Alzheimer’s is one of life’s most profoundly difficult experiences.

Fortunately, there are certain methods that you and others can use to get through these tough times together. One of the toughest aspects of this experience is, of course, communicating, but by learning how to connect and communicate with your loved one in new ways, you may make life a bit simpler for everyone. 

With that in mind, here’s some advice on how you can learn to communicate better with a loved one with Alzheimer’s. 

Accept Both That Your Loved One Has Changed, But That They Are Still The Same Person

The first and most crucial thing you can do is to accept the somewhat conflicting but comforting idea that whilst the person you previously knew will never come back, they are still the same person inside. 

That said, the early signs of the disease may be fairly innocuous, but cannot be reversed. As Dementech tell us, ‘’Alzheimer’s symptoms will begin relatively mild, and barely noticeable. However, as more brain cells are damaged over time, signs will become moderate and will soon begin to have an impact on the person’s day to day life.’’

Once you accept that this is your new reality, then everything else will become a lot simpler. Rather than wasting your time and energy battling the truth, you may focus on your loved ones to make their lives more pleasant as soon as the signs are recognised and confirmed as Alzheimer’s. This can help you retain a positive mindset that can help you get through challenging days.

This can also help you better communicate with your loved one. You will know that this is your ‘new normal’ and it will help you to be more patient and flexible when it comes to interacting with your loved one; patience and accommodation are, after all, two of the most crucial virtues required when dealing with dementia.

Get Professional Support

Sometimes, dementia just develops too far, or too swiftly, for you to cope without feeling overwhelmed. If this is the case, then it’s ideal for both you and your loved one that you’re not too proud to seek a lending hand.

This doesn’t mean that you need to place them in a care home. Sometimes, you might get part-time help so you can continue working and then take care of your loved one on the weekends.

There are assistance programmes, respite homes and grants that can help you to cope with everything from your finances to your own mental health. No one will judge you for asking for help; caring is an impossibly hard job, after all. 

Firstly, you should have a needs or carer’s assessment done by your local council or social services department, which may well conclude that you’re eligible for a carer’s allowance.

You can read more about the care and support available for people with dementia on the NHS here.

Keys To Communication

There are a few crucial elements that you should constantly keep in mind while trying to connect with someone who suffers from dementia.

First, always try to stay cool. They may already be nervous and bewildered, but shouting at your loved one will just make the situation worse. Instead, always speak clearly and gently, with an easy tone that communicates patience. Avoid ‘baby talk’ though, since this can be condescending and cause understandable annoyance in your loved one.

Try to talk about only one item at a time. Hopping around from subject to subject may be quite confusing, so take your time, talk properly, and allow each subject to run its course before introducing a new one.

Take Care Of Yourself, Too

There are plenty of in-person and online support groups for carers and family members learning the ropes of care. Joining one of these can offer relief, and it’s essential for both you and your loved one living with Alzheimer’s that you’re looking after yourself, too. 

Even if you lurk on the fringes of a social media group, realising that others have the same doubts and fears as yourself can make you feel better about your own supposed shortcomings. Check out the Carers UK Forum, which is part of the UK’s only national member charity for carers, in particular. 

As well as this, other members of the group could have valuable advice and tips for you on how to cope, who to reach out to and more. A friendly voice can make the difference between a terrible day and a good one, so don’t be afraid to see what’s out there.

Carers UK also host weekly online ‘Care for a Cuppa’ meetups for all caregivers in the UK, as well as a Listening Support Service for those needing more formal advice from professionals within the care world.

You should also check out the Carers Trust, who provide online support for carers, enabling them to access help, advice and breaks from caring. And finally, the NHS has a dedicated Social Care and Support Guide with lots of information on the support carers are entitled to.

The Bottom Line

Dealing with dementia is stressful, but there are tools available to help you overcome the barriers to communication. And while you’re with us, we’ve written a little more about caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Do check it out sometime! 

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