Senior Living Care Blog

How To Communicate With A Loved One With Alzheimer's Who Can't Communicate

Posted by Neil Appleby on Oct 9, 2019 8:00:00 AM



Following the meandering path of Alzheimer’s disease is remarkably challenging not just for the patient but also for you, the loved ones.

It’s crucial to unravel and cope with a range of symptoms as they present. You’ll need the utmost patience as you deal with a person who seems to be entering a different phase of life.


As the illness worsens and symptoms shift from mild to severe, the disease then enters the later or end stage.


Caregivers are instructed to apply different strategies to keep up with the patient’s uncontrollable mood swings, wearing behavior, extreme memory and cognitive function loss, and the inability to comprehend adequately or communicate clearly.


Communicating is central if you want to find out what the patient is feeling and how best to help them.


But how can you manage that when the patient has seemingly lost the ability to converse entirely?


Well, to help you with that, we’ve assembled some handy pointers to help you to engage with your loved one with Alzheimer's, even if they can no longer communicate.


Watch Your Loved One’s Behavior Closely

An older couple sitting on a bench and over looking the mountains. The wife is enjoying time with her husband who has alzheimers

Keep a close eye on all aspects of your loved one’s behavior. Note any details that change, however negligible they might seem.


Try to internalize and put yourself in their shoes. Think how you would feel if you completely forgot things and couldn’t conjure up the basic words you needed to communicate.


This way, you can better start to empathize with their condition


Use Memory Aids Scattered Around The House

Make a record of reminders of things your loved one needs to do.


Place Post-It Notes in the places your elderly relative needs to do things. Leave medication reminders in the bedroom and prompts for food in the kitchen.


Personalize things so it works for you and your loved one. When memory fails, reminders are valuable.


Encourage Your Loved One To Use a Diary

Give your loved one a diary so they can write down events that transpire throughout the day.

This will demonstrate how well they are able to remember things and to record their experience.


Even if your loved one finds that words are starting to fail them, encourage them to communicate however they can. Simple vocabulary is fine and drawing also works when words won’t come to mind.


Prep For The Day With Your Loved One

If it’s practical, get together with your loved one in the morning and review what needs to be done that day.


Combining this approach with physical reminders can reinforce through repetition and help your aging relative to remain independent even if their memory is starting to fail.


Always Listen When Your Loved One Wants To Talk About Their Condition

An older woman with alzheimers being kissed on the cheek by her husband

Even if you’re finding things are tough for yourself, try to always have a ready ear and comforting words when your loved one wants to talk about their condition.


Spend as much time with them as you can. Stay and focus purely on listening.


Be sympathetic without being patronizing. This can be a precious release valve for your loved one so allow them to use it.


Don’t Waste Your Time Contradicting Seemingly Illogical Statements

Never contradict anything or needlessly argue with your afflicted loved one. You’ll end up squandering energy and accomplish very little.


People with Alzheimer’s might believe that all they say and do is right at time so it’s best to roll with the punches.


Avoid Drawing Attention To Your Loved One’s Condition

While you should always be ready to listen if your loved one wants to talk about Alzheimer’s, it’s not sound practice to draw attention to their ailing memory and flagging communication skills.


Leave the ball in their court and try to continue with life as naturally as possible rather than dwelling on the condition.


Embrace Color And Number Coding

Use color and number coding for everything.


You could use number 1 for the bathroom and the color blue for things required (shampoo, soap, toilet paper).


This is a simple way to prompt your loved one’s memory without needing to rely on constant communication.


Use Old Video Footage

VHS tapes. Individuals with alzheimers can watch videos as a passtime

If you’ve got old videos or photos, make full use of these to give your loved one’s memory a workout. See if any faces prove familiar.


Remind and Reinforce

Repetition is a powerful tool when you’re looking to stretch your loved one’s ailing memory.


Continuously ask them about the same things every day and if they fail to respond or they don’t remember, courteously remind them the following day.


Be Tactile

Communication can be about more than words.


Don’t overlook the importance of touching and actions when it comes to communication.


Never Lose Your Patience

While arguably the cardinal rule, it can be tough not to lose your patience. Nevertheless, you should always refrain from snapping or becoming tetchy if your loved one forgets to take their medication yet again.


Remember That Alzheimer’s Impairs Logical Reasoning

Two older men sitting outside and talking. Enjoying conversation is important when your loved one has alzheimers

Logical reasoning is impaired in people suffering from Alzheimer’s so if you see your loved one suddenly do something completely out of character and seemingly without reason, don’t try to stop them or berate them.


Focus Fully On The Past When Your Loved One Talks

Give your loved one your undivided attention when they talk about their past.


If they make reference to the whereabouts of a friend or family member who has passed, it can be better to conceal the truth from them. For example, saying they can’t visit right now is better than making them feel bad to have forgotten something so important.


What To Do Next

Always keep in mind it’s the disease not the person that is causing the person to act and talk the way they often do under the influence of Alzheimer’s.


Be as patient as you possibly can be and never hold back on seeking help. Here at our assisted living facility in Beverly, we can help with all aspects of senior care. One of our most popular services at Landmark Recovery is our memory care service. This can help significantly when someone is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Get in touch today and arrange a complimentary tour of our facilities.


Learn More Here!


Topics: Alzheimers

Can I help you with