Communication is among the basic challenges facing individuals with Alzheimer’s as the condition gradually undermines their ability to communicate. Therefore, communicating with individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s requires good listening skills, understanding and patience. Communication challenges facing these individuals are encountered at all stages of the disease. Though the changes which occur in the ability to communicate may be unique to each individual suffering from Alzheimer’s, there are certain changes which can be deemed common in all patients.
While striving to communicate as a result of the changes caused by the disease, common communication changes which occur include:
- Using new words for describing otherwise familiar objects
- Making repeated use of familiar words
- Reversion to a native language
- Speaking less often than before
- Losing track of the conversation and train of thought
- Experiencing difficulty related to the logical organization of words in a conversation.
To better understand the impact of the condition on the ability to communicate, it is important to analyze how each stage of Alzheimer’s has an effect. Here is a brief look at the communication issues faced by patients during the early, middle and late stage:
An elevated level of focus and concentration would be required to make conversation. There is a chance that people suffering from Alzheimer’s lose their train of thought from time to time. This also entails difficulty associated with staying on the topic being discussed. Talking becomes increasingly challenging with more time being required to come up with responses to the questions being asked and also trying to figure out what to say next. This may lead to him/her experiencing increased frustration and could affect the confidence level when communicating as they may find it difficult to come up with the right words at the right time during a conversation.
As the disease progresses, so does the difficulty in communicating with patients finding it more difficult to keep track of what they were talking about. The span of difficulty increases further as they start encountering difficulty in understanding reading material along with a decline in the ability to comprehend the facial expressions. Also accompanying the challenges of the middle stage of Alzheimer’s is the declining ability to lower or raise one’s voice according to the conversation and the explanation of any abstract concepts.
Completing sentences might prove challenging and the individual’s conversation may be reduced to rambling and vague sentences. All this may also culminate in reduced interest in the patient to even bother communicating with the people around him/her.
The late stage can be painful as it is the most difficult of the three stages. At this stage, the patient loses the ability to comprehend the meaning of a majority of the words used in a conversation. It may also result in poor expression, such as improper grammar and a growing inability to realize a person is being addressed. Many individuals going through the late stage of the disease may become totally mute. This is where caregivers have to step up to the plate and help the patients’ out. Otherwise it is quite possible the condition takes over and their quality of life deteriorates to the point of no return.
This is the reason that people who are looking after these individuals are advised to continue to communicate with them regardless of which stage of the disease they are at. Continue to encourage these individuals to communicate without exerting any kind of pressure on them. Encouraging communication during the initial stages can also help reduce the risk of the disease progressing. Therefore, keep the information provided here in mind to ensure you can provide the support required by the patient.