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How to Communicate with a Loved One During Each Stage of Alzheimer’s

By Mary-Frances Walsh, 9:00 am on

Communicating with a loved one is something most people don’t give much thought to on a daily basis. When Alzheimer’s disease becomes part of the equation, however, things can change quickly, including the way important needs, thoughts, and feelings are expressed. According to Sonoma County Alzheimer’s care professionals, adjustments to your approach to communication can allow you to remain connected to your loved one as their condition advances.

Early Stages

Forgetfulness is the most common symptom of early-stage AD. Communicate with your loved one with empathy, or validation of their feelings. Summarize what they’re saying to show an understanding of what they’re trying to tell you. During early stages, it’s important to:

  • Show respect for their frustrations
  • Provide reassurances and comfort
  • Not take outbursts of anger or mood shifts personally

Middle Stages

As Alzheimer’s progresses, there may be some confusion over time and place, often resulting in a mix-up of facts or misinterpretations of reality. Yet they will still be able to tell whether you’re being genuine or going along with whatever they’re saying. References to people who have passed are often indicative of a desire to be loved. Offer comfort and communicate with your loved one during middle AD stages by:

  • Asking open questions to clarify what they’re saying
  • Using familiar songs or enjoyable music to spark memories
  • Maintaining direct, prolonged eye contact

Final Stages

Regression of language skills is common during the final stages of Alzheimer’s, although verbalization may still be possible. Repetitive motions or movements may replace speech. Even if your loved one reaches a point where they’re completely disconnected from reality or in a vegetative state, there’s still a basic understanding of human emotions. Communication during this phase often involves a combination of approaches, including:

  • Respectfully copying body movements to determine what feelings such motions convey
  • Showing an emotional connection with gentle touches and caresses
  • Using nurturing vocal tones when speaking

Meeting the progressive care needs of a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be challenging. Reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of elder care Sonoma County families trust, to find additional support and resources. Our comprehensive and flexible home care is available on a part-time or live-in basis, our caregivers are expertly trained, and our dedicated Care Managers are on-call 24/7. To learn more, call (707) 843.4368 and schedule a free in-home consultation today.