Dementia | October 19, 2023
People with dementia not only have difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions but also have trouble understanding others.
Dementia, a complex ailment, defies classification as a standalone disease. Rather, it represents a collection of distressing symptoms that profoundly impact memory, cognition, and social skills, ultimately disrupting one’s everyday life. By definition, dementia signifies a breakdown in two or more brain functions, spanning from memory loss to compromised decision-making, extending to an inability to execute routine tasks like managing finances or preparing meals. In addition, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia gradually erode an individual’s capacity to communicate effectively.
Changes in the ability to communicate are unique to each person with dementia. The family and/or caregiver may recognize changes such as:
Stage 1: Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) During the early stage of Alzheimer’s or other dementias, seniors may experience mild memory loss and occasional difficulty finding the right words. Communication may still be relatively unaffected, but you should be prepared for subtle changes. Here are a few tips for effective communication during this stage:
Stage 2: Moderate Cognitive Decline During the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s or other dementias, communication becomes more challenging. Memory loss intensifies, and individuals may struggle to communicate their needs and thoughts effectively. Here are some strategies to enhance communication during this stage:
Stage 3: Severe Cognitive Decline In the advanced stage of Alzheimer’s or other dementias, communication abilities deteriorate significantly. Individuals may struggle to understand or respond to verbal cues. However, it’s important to continue engaging with them and making efforts to communicate effectively:
Communicating with elders during the different stages of Alzheimer’s and other dementias requires flexibility, patience, and understanding. By adjusting your approach to fit their evolving needs, you can create meaningful connections and maintain their dignity throughout their journey. Remember to always be present, compassionate, and receptive to their non-verbal cues.
Always remember to treat a person with dementia with dignity and respect. Don’t talk about them as if they are not there, or talk to them as you would to a young child, and be patient. Offer them ongoing comfort and reassurance, too. If he or she is having trouble communicating, let the person know that it’s okay. Encourage the person to continue to explain his or her thoughts, no matter what.