Communicating with Alzheimer's and Dementia
By Doug Sheaffer
Situations in which Alzheimer’s or other dementia is a player often become arenas for frustration.
We won’t use this space today to go into early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, what it looks like and where research is at. Most of this information can be found at www.alz.org among a lot of other data. For now, let’s try to look into circumstances in which it’s already an established reality.
As people, we tend not to think too much about how we talk to each other (sometimes less than others), it’s, as mentioned above, automatic. At some point in the deterioration of Alzheimer’s, it becomes less that and more planned conversation. The adage of “think before you speak” can become very, very real.
One thing (out of many things) to keep in mind is that words and how they’re used will change. It may be that Mom/Dad may ask for one thing while meaning another, for example. Or throw in well-worn terms like thingamajig or doohickey. Names may be replaced by “you know” or some other less than helpful term.
It becomes our job to change how we talk in order to communicate — sometimes a daunting task.
So let’s look at just a few tips from folks who have been there, and experienced what works — and what doesn’t:
I realize that all of this is easier to write about than to do on a daily basis, and as I said, these aren’t what seems good to me, but are tips from those who have lived there.
And—usually the last priority for a caregiver — try to take time for YOU. Friends, family, or other caregivers need to be used if possible. It does no one any good for the one providing care to hit the wall.
Don’t know where to start in taking care of yourself? Try our Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP). Lots of information, resources and just plain help. Contact Eric Nessa at 1 866 582 1485, or email at NessaEM@dshs.wa.gov. You can also contact either of the offices below and we’ll make the connection for you.
Hopefully, you’ll not have to walk this path all alone.
Information & Assistance: Long Beach: 642-3634, 888-571-6558; Raymond: 942- 2777, 888-571-6557