Connections Are Lost When Communication Is Difficult for Alzheimer’s Patients
As Alzheimer's progresses, conversations can lose the profundity they once had
Dementia affects communication, and as it progresses, sometimes into Alzheimer’s disease, it can eventually lead to a loss of the ability to communicate. This progression usually begins in the mid-stages of the disease.
Aphasia is the medical term for the loss of speech, comprehension, and more. Healthcare professionals and articles in medical journals tend to focus on how the loss affects patients, but its impact goes much further.
Family caregivers and friends also struggle
Something miraculous occurs between parents and their kids. There’s a level of connection that doesn’t exist with anyone else on the planet. That was the case for my mom and me.
I often find myself saddened as I write this column, and this is one of those times, as I remember how communication between my mother and me dissipated. Thankfully, she didn’t completely lose the ability to communicate with her children and grandkids, but our interactions weren’t the same as they were before dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Like most families of loved ones with dementia, we knew, or thought we knew, what to expect, but it’s impossible to grasp until it becomes a part of your reality. It’s odd how it all comes about, too. You’re fooled into thinking you’re connecting until it’s apparent that you aren’t.
My conversations with Mom would click along nicely, and as in the old times, I enjoyed the connection. She was the same old Mom I’d confided in since I was a little girl. Then, suddenly, something was a bit off, and I was dragged back into reality. The aphasia I could comprehend, but in those moments, Mom wasn’t at a loss for words. She wasn’t confused by the words coming out of my mouth, but her response was basic. We no longer communicated at the same level.
Longing to connect
Recently, a childhood friend confided in me about her father, who has dementia. Her dad, like my mother, was vibrant and involved with his kids before the disease. He was full of fun, a former sailor who carried the same stature into his old age. He was, and still is, well respected. My friend is dealing with the sadness that accompanies loss. Her father is still with her, but conversations have waned, or at best have become one-sided. Connecting with her father is the longing of her heart.
Simply knowing that dementia affects communication isn’t enough to prepare those of us who love our parents, spouses, children, friends, and other loved ones with the disease. Communication and connection aren’t the same, although one leads to the other.
There was more than a thread of connection between my mother and me, but my emotions and feelings ran deeper than my mother could respond to. We could only connect at a basic and shallow level.
If you find yourself in a similar situation with a loved one, try not to concentrate on all that is lost. Hold on to the thread of connection that’s still present. If it’s so slim that you can’t find it, remember the depth with which you once enjoyed each other and connect with that.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.
Sharing your personal experience is uniquely helpful. We need to be forewarned and as prepared to adapt as possible.
Thank you for reading the column and for commenting. If there's any kindness attached to Alzheimer's disease, it is that symptoms aren't unfurled all at once. I hope my experience with my mother's disease will is helpful to readers. " It would please her immensely. May God bless you in your journey.
“Basic” is not necessarily “shallow”. I sit and hold my mother’s hand and may exchange smiles and kisses, and not need either one of us to verbalize our feelings, and still feel connected to her in a deep and loving way. Long quiet hand-holding without any pressure for anything else can be comforting for both parties. I know it is different for everyone, and neither one of us were ever big talkers; and it is possible I am getting more out of this than she is.
Thank you for reading the column and also for taking the time to share your experience. I agree with you. "Basic" and "shallow" perhaps weren't the best choice of words. It makes me happy to hear how you continue to connect with your mother, and I wouldn't worry that you may be "getting more out of it than she is." I am sure your mother finds comfort with your hand in hers. May God bless you both.
Andrew. Milone. DDS
Thanks for helping me further understand that I'm not alone Beautifully written. Best regards
Thank you for the kind words and especially for reading the column. You're indeed not alone. May God bless you.