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People living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease experience many changes over time to their ability to communicate. It can be incredibly difficult to watch as they experience feelings of frustration, confusion and even fear.

But there are ways to ease communication and help your loved one avoid negative feelings. We adapted tips from the Alzheimer’s Association to help you communicate at any stage of your loved one’s progression.

Family having a friendly conversation

Actively bring your loved one into conversations. This will allow you to gain insight into how your loved one is doing, how they feel, what they are thinking or what they may need. It’s ok if you don’t know what to say—simply spending time with your loved one shows them they’re important. The conversations may feel awkward at first, but when you engage them, you avoid hurting their feelings or offending them.

Give your loved one time to respond. It may take them a little longer to remember the words they want to use or remember how to organize their sentences, but hold back from finishing their sentences for them. Allowing your loved one to take the time they need to communicate will allow them to feel independent and prevent increased feelings of frustration.

Find the form of communication that works best for you. People communicate in many different ways. Find out whether your loved one best communicates face-to-face, through phone calls, by hand writing letters or sending emails or simply using hand gestures and pointing.   

Keep a positive tone when you speak with your loved one. Changes in communication can be frustrating for both of you, but try to stay calm and speak warmly so they feel comfortable and supported as they learn a new way to communicate.

But don’t hold back from expressing your emotions in front of your loved one. Whether positive or negative, your loved one appreciates your friendship and support. Confiding feelings in them may reaffirm their importance in your life, and sometimes laughing can alleviate tense moments.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affect each person differently, so you may need to adapt these tips to fit your loved one’s experience. If you have questions about care for your loved one, call 1.866.KINDRED to speak with a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week.