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9 Helpful Tips to Improve Communications with Your Loved One with Memory Loss

As Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care authorities tell us, communicating with a loved one with memory loss can be quite a challenge. Your loved one with memory loss can have a hard time understanding you, and you may have difficulty understanding what they are trying to communicate to you.

Thus, there is plenty of opportunity for confusion, misunderstanding and frustration. As a result, loved ones with memory loss can exhibit challenging behaviors such as agitation, anger and aggressiveness, as well as a sense of isolation and the loss of a connection to their family and friends.

Says Crystal Yost, PCHA, PCH, Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA, “Despite the challenges, it is highly important to maintain a connection with your loved one with memory loss for as long as possible. Always try to be patient, understanding and encouraging, just as we do with our residents here at Impressions Memory Care.  

Be mindful that that your loved one is in no way responsible for their declining abilities and frustrating behaviors. The memory loss is not their fault, and their behaviors and comments should never be taken personally. Instead, become knowledgeable about the effects of progressive memory loss and the ways you can improve communications with your loved one for a calmer relationship.

One of the ways you can communicate with your loved one is to reminisce with them about their experiences from ‘back in the day.’ Reminiscing works because it reaches the long-term memories that reside in the still viable regions of the brain.”

Expert Communications Tips for Your Loved One with Memory Loss

As Mayo Clinic memory care specialists state in the article, “Alzheimer's: Tips for Effective Communication,” “When you try to communicate with a loved one living with Alzheimer's disease, you may feel like you've dropped through the rabbit hole into Alice's wonderland.”

Fortunately, there are proven communications techniques that can help. Despite all the challenges, you can communicate more effectively with a loved one who has memory loss by using the following tips:

  1. Speak clearly and slowly – Introduce yourself first and speak in a clear, straightforward manner.
  2. Keep it simple – Use short sentences and plain words. As the disease progresses, yes-no questions, and only one question at a time may work best. Break down requests into single steps.
  3. Stay focused on them – Maintain eye contact and stay near your loved one so that he or she will know that you're listening and trying to understand.
  4. Use visual cues and body language – Sometimes gestures or other visual cues promote better understanding than words alone.  For example, rather than asking if your loved one needs to use the toilet, take him or her to the toilet and point to it.

      It’s not always what you say but how you say it. When words fail, body language can be a valuable communication tool. Touch, such as holding hands and hugging, are helpful ways to communicate that you care.

  1. Don't interrupt them – It may take longer than you expect for your loved one to process and respond. Avoid criticizing, hurrying and correcting.
  2. Don't argue – Your loved one's reasoning and judgment will decline over time. To spare anger and agitation, don't argue with your loved one.
  3. Eliminate distractions – Communication may be difficult – if not impossible – against a background of competing sights and sounds.
  4. Be respectful – Avoid secondary baby talk and diminutive phrases, such as "good girl." Don't assume that your loved one can't understand you, and don't talk about your loved one as if he or she weren't there.
  5. Remain calm – Even when you feel frustrated, keep your voice soft and gentle. Your nonverbal cues, including the tone of your voice, can send a clearer message than what you actually say. Staying calm will help to reduce their level of stress and agitation.

Crystal adds, “As your loved one’s memory loss progresses, their abilities will decline and your communications with them will become more challenging. However, it’s important to remember that although persons with late-stage memory loss might not always respond, they can still benefit from continued communication. Therefore, when communicating with your loved one with memory loss, always be empathetic, treat them with dignity and support them with your words and actions.”

We encourage you to contact us with any questions you have on dementia care. Also, we invite you to read our timely blog articles on current caregiver and dementia care topics posted on our website.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, “9 Helpful Tips to Improve Communications with Your Loved One with Memory Loss,” we'd love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again.

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

 If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. 

For more information, please call Crystal at 484.380.5403 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.