As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, patients are likely to have increased problems with speech and understanding language, which can make communication challenging for all parties involved. However, it’s very possible to continue to communicate with late-stage Alzheimer’s patients as the disease progresses—it simply requires patience, a new mindset, good listening skills, and different listening and speaking techniques.
Continuing to listen, communicate, and connect is not only important for maintaining relationships with late-stage Alzheimer’s patients but also for understanding how their function is changing with time to effectively adjust treatment and care plans to meet their changing needs.
Below, we provide basic information on communicating with late-stage Alzheimer’s patients, including what sorts of changes in communication to expect, helpful tips, and how to monitor changes in function to enable the best care and quality of life possible for patients.
First and foremost, it is important to understand that Alzheimer’s is a complex disease that affects each individual uniquely. It is essential to not make any assumptions regarding an Alzheimer’s patient’s ability to communicate. Communication with two patients in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease may look completely different. Typically, in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, you may expect changes in communication abilities such as those detailed below:
To improve understanding for both the patient and yourself, there are several things you can do. Some patients may still have the ability and desire to communicate verbally, while others may not be able to communicate verbally but can show their thoughts, needs, and emotions in other ways. Keep in mind that it is okay to not know exactly what to say—what matters is your presence, comfort, and friendship. Below are some helpful tips for communicating with late-stage Alzheimer’s patients.
Regularly interacting and communicating with late-stage Alzheimer’s patients can certainly give you a general understanding of how their brain function is changing over time to help inform proper adjustments to care and treatment. However, the ability to effectively update care plans in the most personalized manner possible requires routine testing of brain function to assess patients’ ability to complete Activities of Daily Living.
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