How can I help my family communicate after an Alzheimer's diagnosis?

Q: How can I help my family members as they find it difficult to communicate with our mother who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?

A: Having a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is a difficult thing, not only for the person with the diagnosis but for their loved ones. Often family members are in denial until symptoms progress significantly. Your mother will need love and attention during all stages of the disease. A thoughtful approach will benefit not only your mother but the caregivers as well. You can try a variety of communication tools to help your family stay connected with your mother. Try starting with validation. Validation at each stage is vitally important. For example: Your mother continues to look out the window while stating her mother’s name. You could reply, “You miss your mother.” Offering her validation vs. reorienting to reality and explaining her mother passed away years ago will communicate you are listening and you care. Validation connects people, it makes people feel heard, in essence meeting your mother where she is at – thinking about her mother. Your mother won’t remember what you said to her but she will remember how you made her feel. This tool may be used over and over again. There are also services, such as respite care or support groups, to help family through the journey while reducing stress. You can call 507.387.HOME (4663) to find out more about how home care and case management services can help your family as your mother’s Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

Ann Cesafsky
Licensed Social Worker