How to Talk to a Loved One with Alzheimer’s or Other Types of Dementia

 We spend our lifetime with those who raised us and surrounded us from a young age to adulthood. The way we speak and interact with them becomes like a second nature – something we do effortlessly with little thought behind the process. This can all start to change as our loved ones start to age. Those with Alzheimer’s or other types of Dementia become robbed of their focus and words. While this may be frustrating to us as we must relearn how we understand and communicate with this new version of our loved ones, we often forget the level of difficulty and frustration such cognitive loss has on them.

This raises the question; how do we communicate with our loved ones when they are suffering from cognitive loss? Gael Fashingbuaer Cooper, explains the “I’ve got your back” approach. Ms. Cooper suggests the following tips:

·         Firstly, to effectively communicate with out loved ones who are suffering from cognitive loss, we must tap into their long-term memories. This can be done through reminiscing on old memories and encouraging them to talk about those things.

·         Secondly, if our loved ones are discussing a topic in which you would need to disagree or indicate any sort of the answer “no” to your loved one, we must divert and redirect the conversation to something more positive. We can do so by reflecting on old memories in relation to the topic at hand.

·         Thirdly, we must take away the keys. Most individuals facing cognitive loss do not truly understand or naturally accept this. We must take the keys away from our loved ones from a more personal perspective. This could include sharing a personal story in which we had a scary incident while driving. This would give them insight as to why a car is inaccessible all of sudden rather than explaining what they are going through which could make them defensive and upset.

We must change our expectations of our relationship with our loved ones moving forward in such instances. We must accept them as they are in the moment. Though, the relationship is now different, it can be more fulfilling as the nature of the conversations we have will be reminiscing on old memories while creating new ones.

 – Sabrina K. Aujla