People with Alzheimer’s disease usually have communication problems, which get worse as time goes on, having difficulty or loss of ability to understand spoken or written language as a result of damage in areas of the brain responsible for communication.

Verbal communication
Due to a gradual progression of language difficulties, the person with Dementia may have communication difficulties arise, leading to frustration, confusion and sometimes even to anger. The needs and desires of the person with dementia may not be satisfied, the behavior may be misunderstood by others and the person may start to feel more isolated. The inability to communicate properly can cause embarrassment, especially if the attention is drawn to mistakes. In fact, it is not uncommon for people with dementia to start using a less complex style of language (shorter sentences and/or a limited vocabulary), to have less conversations, stay isolated, and even not talking at all.

How to make verbal communication easier:

  • Try to have a positive attitude;
  • Sit facing the person and try to encourage him/her to talk;
  • Avoid drawing too much attention to the defects;
  • Give him/her your support;
  • Adapt your language style and tone of voice (without seeming too artificial);
  • Ensure that there are no physical problems affecting communication;

Non-verbal communication and physical contact
As verbal communication becomes more difficult, it can be easier to use non-verbal communication (i.e. voice tone and timbre, eye contact, facial expressions, posture, sign language and physical contact). People with dementia are usually able to understand these signs, but they often have difficulty in understanding more subtle signs, such as when we want to warn someone that it’s time to speak up in the course of a conversation. Thus, the person with dementia can start a conversation, and then fail to respond, which may surprise people who had not yet noticed anything.

How to use non-verbal communication

  • Always try to communicate at the person’s eye level;
  • Make sure you are not giving confusing messages;
  • Try to understand the body language of the Person with dementia;
  • To facilitate understanding, try to maintain eye contact and touch his/her hand if necessary;
  • Transmit security and support through physical contact.

“One day I was sitting in the living room with my husband and he asked me when would we go home. I answered him automatically that he was already at home, but he insisted that he was not. In a way I felt hurt that he didn’t recognize our house, but now I see how bad he must have felt. It’s not worth the consequence of trying to convince him that he is at home when he says things like that, I do what I can to make him feel at home, and distract him when he gets worried.”

People with dementia are often disoriented in relation to time and space. This may be the result of confusion caused by changes in the brain, memory loss, or perhaps by difficulties in recognizing people and objects. The “inner clock”, which allows people to know when it’s time to eat or sleep also tends to break down. This can lead someone to get lost in their own house, or think you’ve been gone for hours, when you only left the room five minutes ago.

For the person with dementia, the main problem is not so much the lack of memory or the difficulty finding the different rooms in the house, but the anxiety it causes. In fact, many people would feel anxious if they were not able to find their way inside their own houses. Knowing that it’s noon is not particularly important, but the possibility of having missed a snack, the favorite TV programme, or the fear of being abandoned, can be so.

How to deal with disorientation

  • Transmit security;
  • Find ways so that the person with dementia understands time (i.e. “after lunch, when the TV programme ends”;

How to avoid problems caused by disorientation

  • Establish routines;
  • Adapt the environment to the needs of the person with dementia, and then avoid unnecessary changes;

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All donations to the local office (Núcleo do Algarve) and membership fees from Algarve residents will be invested in local initiatives providing vital resources for people living with dementia in the Algarve.

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By being a member you benefit from free Cognitive Stimulation Notebooks every month, as well as discounts on training and other events. You can also apply for support programmes such as ‘Incontinence Support’ and Mobility Aids Bank. Please contact us to become a member.
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Urbanização do Pimentão,
Lote 2, Cave, Gabinete 3, Três Bicos,
8500-776 Portimão
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Currently we are scheduling meetings in person by appointment.