It can be difficult to communicate with a parent who is aging and has Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. That’s because dementia is characterized by memory loss as well as difficulty expressing and understanding ideas, a condition known medically as aphasia.
The following advice will help you communicate with your loved one in a meaningful way.
Place Yourself at Eye Level
The field of vision and depth perception of people with neurocognitive disorders like dementia are impaired, especially as the disease progresses. Instead of standing up straight and looking down on someone who is seated, bend down or kneel to be at eye level. Even though it might not feel physically comfortable to you, this strategy will help you and the person with dementia have a more cordial and respectful conversation.
Use Preferred Name and Title
Do not use words like “honey” or “sweetheart.” Even though you may have meant it as a sign of affection, it may come across as confusing and condescending to an older adult with cognitive decline.
Utilize Touch as a Means of Communication
It’s important to understand how someone reacts to physical contact. As you converse with them, you might want to give them a quick pat on the shoulder or hold their hand. The message that you care about them and want to interact with them can be effectively conveyed through gentle touch.
Allow for Time to Think and Respond
Dementia impairs a person’s ability to process information quickly, so it’s best to give them a chance to respond before looking elsewhere for a solution. Also, do not discuss the person as if they are not present. Address them directly and include them in conversations with others to show them that you respect them.