Throughout the progression of the disease, problems in communication will develop, and some of these problems can be difficulty in finding the correct words or using words that are familiar over and over. Instead of calling an object by name, they may describe it and revert to their native language. Also, they may speak less often and use hand movements and gestures more instead of speaking.
Communication in the first stages of dementia:
In the beginning stages or early stages of dementia, your parent may be able to still engage in social activities and meaningful conversation. But, they may repeat the same stories over and over, have trouble finding the right word, or be overwhelmed by too much stimulation.
For successful communication, consider the following:
- Don’t exclude your parent from a conversation when talking with other people.
- If you want to know how your parent is, speak directly to them and ask, using whatever name you call them.
- Listen to the response and give time for the person to respond. Don’t finish their sentences or interrupt unless they ask for help in finding a word or completing a sentence.
- Discuss with your parent what they feel they need help with and what they are comfortable with still doing.
- Discuss what form of communication will work best for them: phone calls, emails, or face-to-face conversations.
Communication for the second stage of dementia:
The second (or middle stage) of dementia/Alzheimer’s is the longest stage and can last many years. As the disease progresses, your parent will have a more difficult time communicating. In this stage, communication is harder:
- Your parent will need time for responding, so don’t rush them.
- When speaking to your parent, have a one-on-one conversation in an area that is quiet without distractions.
- You will need to be patient, supportive, reassuring, and offer comfort so your parent can explain their thoughts to you.
- Don’t argue, if you don’t agree with what your parent is saying, then just let it alone.
- Speak slowly and clearly, don’t overwhelm your parent with a long request. Give step-by-step instructions for tasks that need to be completed.
Communication for the third stage of dementia:
The third stage or severe Alzheimer’s/dementia can last from several weeks to up to several years. Your parent may rely on non-verbal communication like vocal sounds and facial expressions. To communicate at this stage, you will need to:
- Treat your parent with respect and dignity. Don’t talk down to your parent or treat them like a child.
- Approach your parent from the front and tell them who you are.
- If you don’t understand what your parent is trying to tell you, then ask your parent to point or give a gesture, and encourage non-verbal communication.
- Look for the feelings behind what is trying to be said, and emotions are more important when trying to be expressed than words.
- As another form of communication with your parent, use sounds, smell, touch, and taste.