Aug 26, 2012

Alzheimer's, Speaking and Cognitive Function

It is safe to say that less is more when communicating with a person who is deeply forgetful.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Alzheimer's, Speaking and Cognitive Function
I had an interesting conversation earlier this week with a friend who has a relative that is showing signs of dementia.

At a recent party he saw her for the first time in several years. He mentioned that she seemed to be overwhelmed by the people speaking around her.

At first, I really didn't understand the point he was trying to make. After some discussion I realized he was talking about her ability to process what was going on.

More or less to process information.

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One thing I realized when I was caring for Dotty was that if I came up on her quickly and started talking fast she sometimes looked bewildered. Here I was talking away and it seemed like she was just realizing that I had just showed up out of nowhere. Obviously, I was about three blocks down the street before she took her own first cognitive step.

I really don't know how much thought Alzheimer's caregivers give to the ways in which they talk with the person for whom they are caring.

Most caregivers do come to the understanding that they need to talk slower; and, need to focus on one issue at a time.

Nonverbal cues such as smiling and making eye contact are important before beginning a conversation with a person who is deeply forgetful. Before you talk, you need to let them know you are there, and want their attention.

If you want to get a person living with dementia to take their medication, take a pee, or take a shower, you really do need to learn to smile, be patient, and keep the number of words to a minimum. I don't know about you, but I am more predisposed to listen when a person smiles and makes eye contact first.

It is safe to say that less is more when communicating with a person who is deeply forgetful.

Consider this.

As we age, all us lose function across our own cognitive system. We are not usually as good at problem solving, new learning, thinking, attention, memory, perception, motor control, and concept formation as we were when we were younger. This is a simple fact of the aging process.

In the case of those who are becoming increasingly deeply forgetful this phenomena of loss of cognitive function is exacerbated.

If you are having problems communicating or getting a person who is deeply forgetful to do what you want them to do you should consider making an inventory of the way you are communicating.

Make eye contact. Smile. Speak slower. Use less words.

Most important of all be patient. In Alzheimer's World everything moves slower, and this includes you, the caregiver.

Put on a happy face and slow down.

Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 312,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room