Difficulty with Communication Happens with DementiaI spent the morning today with a small group of people with memory loss at a local adult day program. I am happy to be present when these moments of clear thinking come to people, with the right prompts. Aging with Our Parents focuses on questions sent by our readers to Love of Life.ca on the unique questions and concerns of individuals in middle-to late adulthood, while emphasizing the significance of body-mind-spirit interconnectedness to states of wellness and disease.
Find out what medications have been prescribed to your mother and any side effects.  Dementia is not a psychotic state, but many patients are prescribed anti-psychotic drugs to control disruptive behaviors, which are often simply the person’s attempts to communicate and make sense of what is happening. I recommend educating yourself about your mother’s particular type of dementia, and with that awareness, find ways to converse with her that involve the topics or activities that give her pleasure. Engaging in meaningful interactions is important to maintaining the quality of life and personhood of those with dementia. You question if your calls make a difference, and if you should continue to call, since your mother does not seem to remember or even recognize you and soon forgets there was a conversation.
Taking your mother’s strengths and limitations into consideration, it is possible to find alternative ways to communicate and interact, aside from phone calls and yearly visit. The additional presence of a family member, personal friend, or companion at such a ‘virtual visit’ is invaluable.
In conclusion, the question I would like you to consider is: “What do you truly hope to achieve in your mother-daughter relationship?” Once you know the answer to that question, the time with your mother will be more beneficial to you both. Enid Muirhead, RN, BScN, M.Ed, GNC, applies over thirty-five years of professional nursing expertise in offering behavioral change guidance in disease prevention and wellness promotion. Her current and recent professional nursing practice and teaching experiences include clinical roles in Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health, and UBC School of Nursing.
Enid draws on her wide-ranging Nursing practice and education experience to inform a holistic wellness promotion practice; Towards Home.
Excellent list of tips…number 13 took me a little while to figure out when my mom was alive and her dimentia had become advanced but I realized to stop contradicting everything she thought she was seeing and experiencing made life easier for everyone concerned. My addition to this list is maybe not for everyone, but I feel physical contact must be a help – a touch on the shoulder, a hug as I leave. A triple classic pop, rock, or folk song is a song that not only successfully expresses the emotional state of a multitude of listeners, but also manages to reflect the emotional state of an entire community as well.
We, at Caregiver Cards, seem to be getting a lot of request for help in how to effectively communicate when interacting and socializing with someone living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. I thought it was good to offer a reminder and re-post our  advice for caregiver tips for effective communication. You can view  our Ten Tips for Communicating with Persons Living with Dementia FREE pdf as a helpful tool!
If the thought is lost, repeat the same communication again and reinforce with visual prompt such as Caregiver Cards. Besides playing some games, we talked with one gentleman about his time in Germany after WWII. Other areas affected might include attention, thinking, reading, and visual-spatial skills.


However, there are many types of communication impairments that are often seen throughout the disease. Explore the support resources and expertise offered locally, for example, by connecting with Alzheimer’s Society,  a site where all types of dementia and all manner of care considerations are described. Entering a care facility does not mean the end of family engagement with persons with dementia, although I have too often seen this occur. Your connection periods might involve singing the songs of her youth or hymns if she is a religious person.
As dementia inevitably progresses, your mother will gradually have a more difficult time understanding others, as well as communicating in general. People with dementia have ‘islands of retained ability’ which become visible from time to time as periods of more clarity.
It can be useful to have a particular topic thought out and ready, depending on mutual interests, or to have thought about what you want to achieve from the conversation.
She may not be able to engage in the mental gymnastics involved in maintaining a conversation with multiple threads. Whether on social media or in person, maintaining eye contact and smiling helps put people with dementia at ease and will facilitate understanding. Your conversations are not likely to go very far if you try to correct every inaccurate statement your mother makes. The expression on your mother’s face and the way she holds herself and moves about can give you clear signals about how she is feeling.
These suggestions and information can help you make adjustments and gain confidence about this new experience. I know how much this helps most people so I imagine it’s just the same or even more important when someone is a isolated and confused. It is nice to see people reaching out for help and support in understanding the nature of Alzheimer's. Other communication issues may include inventing new words, disorganized speech, easily losing track of thoughts and speaking in tangents, speaking in a native language or even speaking less.Even if the person who is affected by dementia cannot properly express themselves, they can often still respond and experience feelings and emotions. He shared that while there, he taught a German some English and that person, in turn, taught him some German.
You will find a wealth of information there, as well as support options for family members and the latest research evidence on treatment. If there are siblings or other family members in the area of her care home to facilitate a regularly scheduled face to face ‘virtual’ connection with your mother, all the better. With support, I hope you will be able to enjoy a rich and continuing relationship with your loved one. I liked the points about avoiding distractions, planning the topics in advance and like Cliff above, to let things go! These are just good bullets and guidelines to help you through your day when communicating and speaking to your loved one with Alzheimer's or related dementia.
But this gentleman could not finish telling his story, as he lost his train of thought in his communication.


At this stage in your mother’s illness, you have no doubt discussed the type of dementia, diagnosis and prognosis, with her attending physician. Share particulars among your siblings when planning how to optimize and provide the support your mother needs. Being able to actually see one another as you speak amplifies the quality of verbal interaction because body language is also visible. If there is no family nearby to support you in this ‘virtual connection’, there may be volunteers available to do so.
People with dementia frequently go back to old memories in order to make sense of otherwise incomprehensible situations.
Jung Society of Vancouver, Canadian Gerontological Nurses Association and Canadian Association on Gerontology. Sometimes when people are confused and do not remember the other in the moment, a hug can be too much contact for them. Many people with dementia can have a concurrent delirium or depression, worsening cognitive function. This can prevent leaving just one or two siblings to carry the burden of care and responsibility and serves to ease the stress of the situation for all concerned.
Sudden movements or a tense facial expression may cause upset or distress and can make communication more difficult. Because they do not store new information, they often have no idea who they are talking to or where they are.I Imagine how scary that must be and how aggressive you might become when your version of what is happening is challenged. If she says something you know to be incorrect, try to find ways of steering the conversation around the subject rather than contradicting her directly.
When you haven’t understood fully, tell her what you have understood and check with her to see if you are right. You might begin by asking the director of care in your mother’s facility for assistance or suggestions about available resources to facilitate such contact.
If your mother has difficulty finding the right word or finishing a sentence, ask her to explain it in a different way. Based on the response, then, a welcomed, good affectionate two arm hug is great medicine for the heart and soul. This is one area where knowing your mother as a person, and your shared family history and past experiences, interests, values, and beliefs are invaluable in discerning what she is attempting to communicate. No nurse, care aide, doctor, or volunteer possesses this listening presence and contextual knowledge. With a Communications degree from the University of Illinois, Alissa strives to help families understand and manage the changes that often accompany caring for a senior loved one. On a personal note, Alissa enjoys traveling around the world as a military spouse and spending time with her two young children and Golden Retriever.



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