Today, more than 5 million Americans are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and experts predict that by 2050 that number could reach as high as 16 million. This year alone, AD cost America $259 billion, and if these predictions are correct, these expenses will exceed $1 trillion by 2050.
Many people do not know that one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related condition, or that it is the sixth leading cause of death for people over the age of 65. Alzheimer’s kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. If those numbers hit too close to home, then join the crowd.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, one that gradually changes a person’s ability to communicate. The sufferers often lose their train of thought, which is frustrating for them and those around them. Working with such people requires a lot of patience, excellent listening skills and lots of understanding.
Here are some of the ways you can make the communication smoother and help them on this tough road ahead.
Communicating with a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease
Do not argue with them
You won’t be successful anyway. Try to use words such as, “I’m sorry you’re angry” (or hurt, in pain, etc.). Validate their feelings by acknowledging them and reminding them that you are on their side.
Turn negatives into positives
Use words such as, “Let’s do this” rather than “No, don’t do that.” Remember that they are adults who have a lifetime of experience, so don’t talk down to them as though they are children.
Don’t say “Remember?”
Sufferers will struggle to remember anyway, and asking this can be offensive. It could cause them to blow up in a rage or get really frustrated and embarrassed.
Only ask one question at a time
When you ask them something, ask them one question at a time. Allow them to answer the first question before asking another one. It’s okay to ask “who, what, where, when,” but try to avoid asking “why.” It can cause too much frustration.
Speak in short sentences
Speaking in long, complicated sentences will also overwhelm someone with Alzheimer’s. Speak plainly and with short, direct sentences as AD sufferers have trouble focusing on more than one thought at a time.
Speak at half the rate of your average speed. Pause and take a breath between sentences. Doing so will give your loved one time to catch up and process your words. Otherwise, they will have difficulty keeping up and could become frustrated.
Speaking calmly with an upbeat voice and a pleasant smile will keep them in a calmer state. If you sound or appear agitated, they could mirror the negative emotion and sometimes return an even stronger tone.
Tell them what you are going to do before you do it
This is especially important if it involves you touching them. They could become hysterical if they think you are grabbing them, which will instill fear and apprehension.
Stay at their level when you speak
Strive to keep your head at their level and not tower above them, as this could cause fear, which could bring on panic behavior. Bend your knees or sit in a chair to stay at their physical height. If you approach them from behind it may intimidate them and they will be focused on their fear, not on your words.
Keep eye contact
Try to always approach them directly from the front and center, face-to-face with full eye contact. Make sure that they are fully aware. Otherwise, they may become startled and anxious.
Please keep these pointers in mind when dealing with someone with Alzheimer’s. If you would like to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and find out about the diagnostic tools, risk factors, and prevention strategies, you can check out the GeriatricNursing.org article here.
About the Author:
Meredith Rogers is a registered nurse (RN) and a health writer. She has been working with Alzheimer’s patients for more than 10 years and would like to share her knowledge about this disease with 1Dental readers.