Alzheimer’s disease and dementia usually progresses to the point where language skills are impacted. This may include difficulty in finding the correct words and following the thread of conversations. There may even be times when the person is in the middle of a sentence and forgets what they were talking about. Outside distractions may be harder to tune out as well, particularly if the conversation is happening in a large or noisy room. The attention span becomes shorter. There will also be signs that the person may not comprehend what is being said to them because they have lost the ability to make connections. I recall an instance when my mother and I were visiting dad in the ICU unit at the hospital and we explained the No Scent rule to mom as, don’t wear your perfume. The next day however she wore dad’s after shave lotion, not making the connection that they are similar.
The loss of verbal communication makes people rely more on non-verbal signs. Being aware of this can help the affected person feel less isolated and less misunderstood as well as lessening the frustration level for both parties. A communications study has found that 93% of all communication is actually non-verbal, which surprised me. We don’t often think of tone and pitch of voice as well as body language to be as important as it is. However these become increasingly more important when dealing with someone who is struggling with their language skills due to memory loss.
Stay tuned for some communication tips next time.