Alzheimer’s is one of the neurodegenerative diseases that affect more people today. This disease is characterized by the progressive loss of cognitive functions, such as memory, reasoning, language or attention.
Currently in Spain there are more than 1.2 million people affected by this disease, however, it drags and marks the lives of those closest to them. At this time, we can find hundreds of organizations and institutions that can inform you about this condition and help you in everything related to it.
Today we are going to focus on that loss of language and how we can solve communication problems with a person who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Talking will not always be easy.
Communication in the face of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that can affect anyone. It is the most common form of dementia . Dementia is a general term to describe the loss of memory and other intellectual activities, getting to interfere with the daily life of the individual.
More than half of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s live at home, so, as we have explained previously, the impact of this disease extends to family, friends and caregivers. It is essential that we inform ourselves well about how to treat the patient, and of course the main thing is that this person is as well as possible, that we give him our full attention so that he feels good.
When visiting or establishing contact with a person who has Alzheimer’s, surely you don’t really know how you can do it, do we have to insist that we are such a person if they don’t remember us? Do I have to speak to you in a more special way? Is it good to remind you? Language problems usually generate situations of frustration and anguish both in the patients themselves and in the people around them, but don’t worry, today we are going to give you some advice that will surely come in handy in these situations.
The first thing we have to be clear about is that we have to address the person with a soft and familiar tone, it is very important to speak clearly and slowly.
When we approach a person with dementia most of the time we tend to speak louder, we think that by raising the tone we can compensate for the cognitive deficit, but unless the person suffers from advanced hearing impairment, we should not use a tone that is very high.
When we address the patient we have to use a simple vocabulary, better if the terms we use have always been used by the person, this will be familiar and will help them to remember a lot.
We must try to avoid double meanings, speak without using ironies or any message that may be ambiguous, could misinterpret it or confuse it even more.
When proposing a plan or asking you what you would like to do, the best thing to do is to be direct, ask closed questions. For example, do you want to eat? Do you want to go to the bathroom? Instead of what do you want to do? The best thing is that you provide him with several options to which he has to answer with yes or no, instead of the person asking you exactly. For example, what do you want to eat? Soup, chicken or vegetables. As an advice, repeat the question several times before moving on to another, also allow some time for them to process the question and the answer.
Another tip that can help you when establishing contact with a person with Alzheimer’s is to use mimicry or gestures. If we are referring to an object that the person cannot understand, we can point to it or use mimicry to facilitate understanding. Nor should we gesticulate excessively, as we could confuse him even more, we have to ensure that our gestures and messages do not give rise to doubts or misinterpretations.
Of course, nothing to convey bad faces, or anguish or frustration. We know that these are hard and very delicate moments, but we must try to smile and give them all our love , they are still very sensitive to the mood of others, being able to influence their own.
When the person with Alzheimer’s does not recognize us
The moment comes when the patient does not recognize us, what should we do? When it comes to remembering, we must not overwhelm the patient, nor create a tense situation in which we all lose out. It is best to provide him with memories that he may still have. Start by putting on the perfume that you have always used, or that song that may be special to you. Give him time, let him touch your clothes, smell you and assimilate what is happening. There are days when they can assimilate more information, understand more and therefore easier to remember, those days you can try to make them remember situations or elements that are pleasant to them. In case they do not recognize their family or friends, do not force the situation, will end up stressing the patient and will generate greater frustration in all those present. You have to always keep in mind that they have a great cognitive deficit, and that each day that passes the situation may get worse, so we must be patient and loving, try to improve ourselves a little every day, after all this is a challenge for everyone .
Other guidelines that we must follow are: establish a contact routine, that is, visit him every day at the same time or on a specific day every week. Nor should we isolate a person with Alzheimer’s, we have to make him feel accompanied and loved. Show complicity and understanding towards the patient, either with a look, with gestures or words. The last thing we should do is argue, either with the patient or in front of him, they have lost the ability to reason and therefore will not be able to hold a discussion or understand the situation. Trying to use empathy, putting ourselves in their place should be our priority.
Finally, we must not only be patient with them, but also with ourselves. Alzheimer’s is a disease that has very complicated phases, but remember to always seek information and professional help. It is a long road in which understanding and affection have to be the fundamental pillars.