By the time I realized there was something really wrong with my mom’s memory, I had already had my last “real” conversation with her. It happened that fast. And suddenly, I no longer had any idea how to talk to her. If I asked her a question (which I frequently did without thinking), she wouldn’t know the answer and would get pretty agitated. Then I would feel like a heel.
But you can learn from my mistakes and have meaningful conversations with your loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Just prepare for them to be mostly one-sided.
Here are some caregiver tips for interacting with someone for whom you’re providing dementia care:
- Be patient: You have to be a good listener when talking to someone with dementia. Let them say what they’re trying to say without interrupting or trying to finish their sentences (unless you’re asked for help).
- Keep questions to a minimum. Try not to ask questions like, “Did you have breakfast?” or “What have you been doing today?’ Your loved one will likely not remember and become frustrated. It’s okay to ask questions like, “Would you like a blanket? or “Are you hungry?” Those are the type of questions someone with Alzheimer’s may still be able to answer.
- Talk about yourself. Talk about something interesting you’ve done recently, like that new place you discovered in Independence or Leawood. Or about how your children are doing in school. Or just tell her (or him) about your day.
- Keep it short: Speak slowly and in short sentences. Some people who have dementia can still digest some of what you’re saying, but it will be much more difficult if you are speaking in a monologue.
- Don’t argue. You’re not going to convince someone with Alzheimer’s that you’re right, so don’t even try. Unless the person is trying to do something harmful, just agree and move on.
- Use pictures. Photos can sometimes jog a person’s memory, so they can be a good conversation starter. One day, I was looking at old pictures with my mom, and she could still name everyone in most of the photos.
- Find other ways to communicate. My mom loved music, so one of my sisters used to just sit with her and sing. Surprisingly, my mom could still remember the words to the songs and would sing along.
Whatever methods you use, it’s important to find a way to interact with your loved one who has Alzheimer’s. If you’re still having trouble, try enlisting the help of Thoughtful Care™ in Kansas City, your choice in home care providers.