“Help me understand what’s going on! We used to be able to communicate so much better…”
That’s a familiar refrain for many who are struggling with the changes which occur when your parents or friends begin showing signs of Alzheimer’s. As it relates to most of those frustrating changes, it’s important to know that it’s the disease – not the person – creating challenges for you both. Did you ever hear children’s stories or see movies where the innocent victim is hypnotized by a villain who made them adopt a harsh, rude personality? Underneath the surface, the innocent individual was still there… and in a simple comparison, that is the way some people see the effect of Alzheimer’s on their parents or friends.
Thankfully, this article sheds light on ways to understand and implement better ways to communicate. Staying patient, with a soft tone of voice is key – even if they are sounding harsh and somewhat aggressive to you. However, baby-talk is not necessary. They can understand what you’re saying but have trouble articulating answers. The baby-talk can be seen as condescending and disrespectful. Communicating will become more challenging, and they may need more time to reply. Getting angry with them or frustrated makes the situation worse most of the time – especially if you use a demanding tone. That last part is a tough one for most people, as it’s often the case that the demanding tone was what you used for raising children, and is a quick default for reacting when getting frustrated.
Praising them in various ways and bringing up happy memories is a great way to change a mood, and lighten the conversation. Also be aware of non-verbal keys if they seem disoriented or quiet – sometimes licking their lips frequently is a sign they’re thirsty but not communicating this out loud. My favorite take away is to share more smiles… no matter who we are and what we are struggling with, sweet smiles are always a good dose of therapy!