When your loved one is diagnosed with dementia, a lot can change. From a wide range of emotions that can include everything from confusion and anger to physical challenges like an increase in needs and lessened ability to get around, dementia can be rough for couples to handle. But even aside from all the physical and emotional changes, communication may also be altered.
Many spouses of seniors with dementia serve as primary caregivers, and as any caregiver knows, communication is a large part of that. For caregivers, communication is crucial to help further the understanding of what is upsetting or ailing their loved one, and for those affected by dementia, communication can help them to feel understood and calm. When something is miscommunicated, it can cause both spouses to feel agitated, confused and misunderstood, which isn’t good for either party.
According to Diane Reier, Lifestyle Specialist at Grandbrier of Prospect Heights, a senior living community in Prospect Heights, IL, most couples have a difficult time adjusting when they discover that the one they love has dementia, and that’s more than understandable. “After a spouse is diagnosed with dementia, most couples aren’t sure what to expect or where to turn to for support. One of the best things you can do at the beginning is to find support in each other and talk about what you both may face as a couple,” says Diane. “While some couples focus heavily on how roles are going to change, how intimacy will be affected and what symptoms will occur, it’s important to talk about how communication will change, as well. Dementia can cause couples to have increased difficulty communicating, so planning ahead and making an effort to work through communication barriers in the beginning could help both spouses drastically in the long run.”
Common Changes in Communication
There are a range of changes in communication that can occur, according to the Alzheimer’s Association®. Some of these changes affect seniors with dementia and some do not, although understanding what the changes are ahead of time and knowing what to expect can help you to anticipate what you may face. Depending on the stage of the disease your spouse is in, you may notice:
● Trouble with words. Those with dementia may have issues using familiar words repeatedly, finding the right words or calling things by the correct name. For example, they may use a roundabout way of describing items or simply point at the item.
● Speaking in a familiar language. If your loved one is fluent in another language or has a different first language, it’s common for them to revert to their native language. This can be alarming; however it is normal.
● Using other ways of communicating. Your loved one with dementia may stop speaking or speak less often as their disease progresses. This may occur because they are embarrassed or can no longer find the right words.
● Inability to organize or put coherent words together. Seniors with dementia often begin to have problems organizing words in a way that makes sense and often start losing their train of thought.
This can be frustrating, but it’s important to be patient and understanding as they have no control over the symptoms they are facing. Finding ways to cope and communicate more successfully can help.
Tips for Successful Communication
Communicating doesn’t have to be difficult, there are ways that you can enhance how you and your spouse communicate. The Alzheimer’s Association® provides a few helpful tips that can make communicating easier in multiple stages of dementia.
● Listen to how they feel. No matter what stage of dementia your loved one is in, listening to your loved one’s thoughts and feelings can help them to feel closer to you. Be sure to talk to them about your thoughts and feelings, as well.
● Find humor in the difficult. In the beginning stages of dementia, things may be tense. Try to find some humor in everyday situations. Good humor and laughing can break the tension and boost your happiness.
● Be patient and supportive. By taking time to offer reassurance and comfort you could be giving your spouse room to explain his or her thoughts and feelings, according to the article. Refrain from interrupting them or finishing their sentences as this could agitate them.
● Try not to argue or correct. It can be stressful and frustrating for caregivers to care for their loved one with dementia, especially when they were so used to their relationship before. It can be easy to want to argue or correct them, but that could make them act out and get angry, so try to refrain from doing so.
● Take time where you don’t talk about health. Caregiving can affect a lot of daily conversations. Try to set a span of time where you only bond with each other over things you love and like to do together, health-talk free.
● Use touch. In the later stages, communication may mean more than simply talking. Let your loved one know you are there by using sense of touch, like holding their hand or touching them when you are speaking to them.
Fostering Positive Communication in Couples with Dementia
If you or a spouse have been diagnosed with dementia or need more helpful tips on how to communicate successfully with your loved one, we would love to help. Our dementia care experts can provide tips and other ideas to help you improve communication with your loved one no matter what stage of the disease you are facing. Call us today at 847-243-6920.
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Live Well Beyond Ordinary at Grandbrier®
Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day Memory Care, Grandbrier® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.
Grandbrier of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living™.
Managed by Pathway to Living™, an innovator in senior living, Grandbrier offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.
For more information, please call Diane or Janette, Lifestyle Specialists, at 847-243-6920.
Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Grandbrier of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.