Learning to Communicate With a Parent With Alzheimer's
As your parent's Alzheimer's affects more of their brain functions, it will be harder to have a conversation with them. Senior home care staff who specialize in taking care of people with Alzheimer's know that communication with them requires patience and understanding. However, here are some helpful tips to help you have a better connection with your parent when speaking with them.
1. Be a calm presence before starting any conversation with your parent.
If the traffic stressed you on the way to see your parent, sit for a few minutes and calm yourself. Alzheimer's patients pick up on frenetic energy and become agitated themselves. You'll distract your parent less when you can be calm and relaxed around them.
2. Minimize environmental distractions during the conversation.
Your parent will have difficulty staying focused on the conversation if there are noises or movement around them. A leaf blower outside, a loud TV set or people walking by are enough to draw your parent's attention away from you. Go to a quiet place to talk, or defer the conversation until the distractions are gone.
3. Use techniques to bring your parent's attention back to the conversation.
Should your parent drift away from the conversation, try these ways of helping them focus:
- Touch your parent lightly on their arm.
- Call them by name as you speak.
- Make direct eye contact with them.
- Acknowledge the distraction and redirect their attention: "That was certainly a loud noise outside! As I was saying, would you like to go for a walk in the park?"
4. Ask only short questions that require yes or no answers.
Alzheimer's affects cognitive ability, so your parent may have difficulty thinking through complicated questions. To help them even more, show them the items to which you are referring. For example, hold up the red blouse so your parent will see it when asking "Would you like to wear your red blouse today?"
5. Get help before you start showing your frustration.
If your parent loses focus and becomes agitated with your attempts to redirect their attention, ask the home care worker for help. They may know the best way to calm your parent down. You may need to step out for a few minutes while your parent settles down so you can continue your conversation. But be prepared to defer the conversation to another day if your parent has difficulty regaining focus.
If you have any other questions about communicating with a parent with Alzheimer's, contact a local senior care provider, such as In Your Home Care, to discuss your concerns.