Alzheimer’s disease and Communication

Speech is frequently affected in Alzheimer’s disease. An understanding of simple speech remains intact during the early stages, but difficulties in finding and expressing the correct words can appear very early on in the disease.

The Alzheimer sufferer also experiences difficulty in interpreting complex conversations, proverbs and metaphors. In other words, it becomes very difficult for them to string a complex sentence together.

Later, as the Alzheimer’s disease progresses, they have difficulty in finishing sentences. The sufferer will usually wander onto another subject and they often repeat the same words over and over again.

Writing and reading can be affected quite early in the disease, with spelling difficulties becoming apparent. There is also an associated lack of interest in the task involved which is very often left unfinished.

Taking messages, particularly over the telephone, can prove particularly difficult, and is often the catalyst that uncovers the dementia in the first place. The Alzheimer’s disease sufferer will have difficulty following the conversation. They will probably realise they are having these difficulties and become even more confused and frightened.

As the Alzheimer’s disease worsens, communication problems increase. As their ability to find the words needed to complete a sentence or become involved in a conversation decreases, other innapropriate words are added to fill the gaps. This usually results in the true meaning of the conversation being lost.

Comprehension skills also decrease. Questions may not get answered because they are not understood. Keeping a conversation going often proves too difficult for the sufferer, and the swift changes of subject we all indulge in often proves too much for them.

Eventually their whole speech often degenerates into babbling gibberish, and gradually the Alzheimer sufferer withdraws from speech altogether.

In advanced stages of the disease, communication eventually becomes impossible since the sufferer is usually unable to convey even their basic needs to others.

In a few Alzheimer’s sufferers, there may be some automatic verbal response on occasion, but usually by this time the burden of communication more often than not falls on the shoulders of relatives, friends and carers.

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