Can Seniors with Dementia Understand What You’re Saying?

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Progressive forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease can affect communication and contribute to difficulties with comprehension. If you’re providing care for an aging loved one with dementia, you may reach a point where you wonder just how much of what you’re saying he or she can understand. There’s no blanket answer to this question, but here’s what you need to know. 


Comprehension during the Early Stages

During the early stages of common forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease dementia, and Lewy body dementia, your loved one will likely be able to participate in conversations, convey his or her thoughts and feelings, and fully understand what you’re saying most of the time. However, your parent may experience issues such as: 

  • Repeating things during conversations 
  • Occasional confusion 
  • A sense of being overwhelmed 

None of these characteristics of early-stage dementia mean what you’re saying isn’t being understood. These are just early signs your loved one is having some difficulty processing information and articulating what he or she wants to say in return. 


Comprehension during the Middle Stages

These are usually the longest stages of dementia. With Alzheimer’s disease, middle stages can last for many years, and this is the time when your loved one will likely have more difficulty communicating. But this doesn’t mean comprehension isn’t still possible. What you’ll need to do is take more steps to ensure your loved one understands you. Such efforts typically involve: 

  • Speaking slowly and clearly in a calm, gentle tone 
  • Looking at your loved one’s facial expressions to determine if what you’re saying is being understood 
  • Sticking to one topic or asking one question at a time to avoid confusion 
  • Asking “yes” or “no” questions when possible to make it easier to respond 
  • Rephrasing what you’re trying to say if it doesn’t seem like your loved one understands you 

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Assisting Hands Home Care, a leading provider of homecare families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.


Comprehension during the Late Stages

During the later stages of dementia, seniors often rely primarily on nonverbal forms of communication, such as facial expressions and vocal sounds. Even if everything you say isn’t being understood at this point, it’s still possible for older adults in the later stages of dementia to comprehend feelings and emotions. At this point, you may have to find other ways to communicate with your loved one, which could involve gentle touches as you speak to him or her or even playing his or her favorite music to convey love and affection. In fact, Canadian researchers published a study in 2018 showing music may help with cognitive functioning in people with Alzheimer’s. 

Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Although it may be challenging to find reliable, highly rated senior home care, Pearland, TX, families can turn to Assisting Hands Home Care. Our caregivers are expertly trained to assist seniors with a wide array of important tasks, including cooking, bathing, light housekeeping, and exercise.


Communicating with Your Loved One

As a general rule, it’s best to assume your loved one can understand what you’re saying on some level, even when dementia is in an advanced stage. For this reason, it’s important to:

  • Avoid talking down to your loved one (e.g., using “baby talk”) 
  • Continue to treat your loved one with respect and dignity as you attempt to communicate
  • Pay attention for signs of recognition or acknowledgement as you speak 

Aging in place can present a few challenges for seniors living with dementia. However, they can still live independently at home with the help of professional dementia care. Pearland families can rely on Assisting Hands Home Care to provide their elderly loved ones with mental and social stimulation, timely medication reminders, assistance with meal prep, and much more. Our caregivers are available around the clock to help your loved one live a happier and healthier life. For compassionate, reliable in-home care, trust the experienced professionals from Assisting Hands Home Care. Reach out to one of our dedicated Care Managers today to learn about the high quality of our in-home care services.