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  1. #1
    New User
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    How can I best communicate with Mum? She has vascular dementia and Alzheimer's

    Hi Everyone,

    My first time on this forum and the way things are progressing, it's unlikely to be the last!

    After having three falls in 18 months (one very serious, where she was in a coma and suffered some brain damage), and most recently being hospitalised in Dec 2011, my Mum was diagnosed with vascular dementia with some Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Syndrome at the end of Jan 2012.

    While we had noticed her functions slowing since the "very serious" fall (see above), this diagnosis of an "advanced, progressive" illness has come as a real shock to our family and we're all very much still coming to terms with it.

    Mum moved into a nursing home at the start of March and is settling in okay so far. However, over the past few days, Mum has become very uncommunicative and often zones out or gives a thousand yard stare when you try to talk to her. This is both disconcerting and upsetting and I was wondering if anyone on the forum could suggest any creative strategies about how to communicate with a close relative in that case? Is it just a case of being extra patient and waiting until Mum comes 'back in the room', or are there any ideas which have worked for other people and might help us? (For info, Mum is a 76 year old retired art teacher, very creative, funny, interested in animals, literature and music.)

  2. #2
    Registered User choccy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    There is a good book called contended dementia by Oliver James, there's some communication techniques in it.
    I just sit quietly until Dad arrives back from his 'travels', I'm sure someone else will be along shortly with some sound advice.

    Welcome to TP x
    I know what I'm going to do..... I just haven't found out yet!

  3. #3
    Volunteer Moderator Grannie G's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Hello Hughesie

    My husband is unable to sustain a conversation for more then a few minutes so I just stay by his side, holding his hand or maintaining any physical contact I can.

    Our son now finds visiting much more difficult and feels after 15 minutes both he and his father have had enough.

    Do what you are comfortable with. You might feel your mother is unaware of your presence but no one really knows whether this is true or not. If you are happy to wait in case she `returns` do so, but if it is stressful to you , shorten the visits but not the frequency.


    Former Carer

    I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet

    About me

  4. #4
    Registered User lin1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Near Herne bay kent
    Hello Hughesie
    Welcome to TP
    Im so sorry to hear about your mum

    Stroking ,holding hands are a good way of communicating, they let the person know we care, are there also stroking can be very soothing for you as well as your mum
    Though its hard do continue chatting, singing yes u have read right singing to your mum , as mum can hear you she just doesnt or is unable to respond to you at times

    Their are aso a couple of things I would check up on if I were you

    Infection such as uti (urinary chest infection) , both can give no outward symptoms (silent) other than an awful downturn in elderly people or people who have dementia , this downturn often improves after the infecton has cleared but not always.

    Has there been a change to mums medication ie new pills or changed doseage in pills that you may not have been told about l. The home should have a M A R S sheet for mum .it lists all medication ect .I would first ask the nurse , manager about mums meds then ask to see the mars sheet

    I hope you find TP as helpful and supportive as I have

    Daughter and former carer

    If only I could have Hindsight beforehand, oh what a difference it would make .

    Odd words mis-spelling and punctuation are most likely due to my naughty iPad

  5. #5
    Registered User Butter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    I sit by my mum and read the paper - holding it so she can see it if she wants to. I don't really concentrate. The situation is so miserable. But I find it's better than the tv. Some visitors sit and work at something of their own.

  6. #6
    Registered User bunnies's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    It may be that you will sometimes get no response, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't know someone is there. Strategies for trying to make contact that I used involved minimal physical contact, if she will allow it - as someone has suggested holding her hand, or giving her a kiss, or I used to ask my aunt if she would like some cream on her hand or her face, and then just try putting a little on her skin, and that often brought a response. Although she didn't recognise me, I think she felt the comfort that this person always kissed her on the cheek, and that was a feeling that sat deeper. Or something physical she can hold and stroke - a toy animal. One has to get out of the habit of a 'conversation' I'm afraid.

  7. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    My MIL has been in a NH since November and it is very difficult to communicate with her. She talks incoherently, but seems to get reassurance from us just joining in by saying ''really? How lovely" and nodding here and there. It sounds ridiculous but it works and when she laughs, we laugh as well.

    We don't start a conversation as this makes her realise that she can't understand us and she gets very agitated. For a lady who never liked any physical contact she will now let Hubbie hold her hand and rub her back which makes her more relaxed. She just seems to get pleasure from the physical presence of someone who she vaguely recognises.

    It's a case of trial and error to see what works best for your mum.


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