How to Effectively Communicate with a Loved One Living with Alzheimer's

By: MesaView Senior Assisted Living

Top Communication Strategies for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

One of the most challenging aspects of cognitive decline is that it significantly limits an individual’s ability to communicate. It’s so difficult to build and maintain a relationship with your partner, sibling, friend, or parent when they seem to be losing such large parts of what made them who they are.

Christy Turner is a consultant, speaker, and trainer who specializes in communicating with people living with dementia. Her highly rated communication guide can be downloaded for free HERE!

Keep reading to learn more about evidence-based communication strategies for individuals impacted by Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other forms of cognitive decline.

Top Memory Care and Assisted Living Community in San Diego, California

MesaView Senior Assisted Living is a family owned and operated independent and assisted living community in La Mesa, California. Our owners have firsthand experience of having loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia and know all that goes into making decisions around memory care for a loved one.

We walk alongside families as they traverse the difficult road of Alzheimer’s and have been supporting the greater San Diego community for a decade. In addition to independent and assisted living care, we also provide accommodations for hospice care. At Mesa View Senior Assisted Living (and at our partner locations, Harbor View Senior Assisted Living and Bay View Assisted Living) we strive to provide compassionate, individualized care, preserving our residents’ dignity at every stage of their Alzheimer’s journey.

Christy Turner’s Communication Principles

While her resource guide goes into much greater depth, here are a few of Turner’s key principles when communicating with dementia impacted individuals.

Bad Behaviors, Lying, In Denial - What’s Really Going On?: Turner explains that the labels often placed on the behaviors of people with Alzheimer’s gets it all wrong. She’s found that reframing the way we understand our loved one’s behaviors is one of the first major steps towards more effective communication.

Arguing Doesn’t Work: Christy warns family members and caregivers to never fall into the trap of arguing. She empathizes with the fact that it’s so easy to get caught up in the argument loop.

Strategies: Turner lays out exact strategies and an insightful mindset shift to stay out of the trap of arguing. She explains that there are specific ways to communicate with people living with dementia that will make the most sense to them. We need to be willing to learn a new language - their language.

General Approach

Turner says that if you only adopt one strategy from her writings and trainings, it’s to bring these five vital elements into every interaction with your loved one:

  • Respect
  • Love
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Kindness

She suggests that being flexible and staying calm can go a long way towards preventing meltdowns. Her guide helps caregivers get into the mind of someone living with Alzheimer’s. She explains how overstimulating public environments can be when cognitive processes are declining (eg: lights, background noise, music).

Having a variety of approaches and cues (nonverbal, tactile, verbal, and visual) can all be helpful in Alzheimer’s communication. For example, if your loved one gives a blank stare when asked “Would you like an apple?” putting an apple in their hand can be an alternative.

Stay Tuned!

Stay tuned for our next blog post where we’ll explore written strategies for effective communication for loved ones living with dementia.

Best Senior Assisted Living Community in San Diego

At MesaView Senior Assisted Living, we pride ourselves on our compassionate, individualized, and holistic model of care. To find out what sets us apart give us a call and schedule a COVID safe tour of our one-of-a-kind assisted living home in San Diego.

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