Alzheimer Society of BC’s suggestions for dealing with dementia

Simply spending time and communicating with someone suffering from Alzheimer's disease is what matters most.

For many people, Father’s Day means a new sweater for Dad, a game of catch in the backyard and maybe a barbecue with family.

But as adult children of parents living with Alzheimer’s disease, or another dementia know, the gifts and celebrations typically associated with the day take on new meaning. Many caregivers learn that simply spending time and communicating with a parent or family member are what matter most.

In fact, meaningful interaction is important to maintaining the quality of life of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. However, as dementia progresses, the ability to communicate becomes more difficult. By taking their limitations into consideration, it is possible to support people living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia in their interactions with you.

Members of Alzheimer Society of B.C. support groups who are living with early-stage dementia gave us insight into some of the challenges they experience when communicating, and offered tips for how caregivers can support a family member who may at times have difficulties with communication.

Here are some of the communication challenges people living with dementia shared with us:

“Sometimes I don’t think before I talk.”

“My husband is getting frustrated because he has to tell me things too often.”

“I have difficultly following conversations in a group, so I simply stay quiet.”

“I used to be a leader, but now I can’t keep up.”

“I’m struggling with words. I can see them in my mind and I know the word I want, but they’re gone and I can’t call them up. I’m reluctant to put myself in that position where I’m called on to say something and all of the sudden, I can’t get the words out. I guess I’m struggling with my own acceptance of my diagnosis.”

When communicating with a person living with dementia, here is what support group members identified as most helpful to them:

“Have patience.” “Don’t get upset.” “Remind me kindly.” “Don’t nag.” “Take over if I lose my train of thought.” “They can be more clear about what they are talking about. It is not helpful when they talk too fast.” “Don’t correct me – gently guide me.” “Not to be interrupted or have sentences finished… listeners must have patience… let me have my say.”

Here are a few of the things support group members told us were not helpful to them:

“To not be acknowledged.” “When people get annoyed with me, or don’t give me the time I need.” “Don’t jump in too fast because I resent it. At the same time, give me the darn word if it takes me too long to remember.” “Don’t remind me that I’ve forgotten something – it doesn’t help.”

– Submitted by the Alzheimer Society of BC