Challenges of Communicating with People with Alzheimer’s

By Gail J. Shaw, Care Coordinator –

“Don’t underestimate me. I know more than I say, think more than I speak and notice more than you realize.” I saw this quote of wisdom on Pinterest and it immediately reminded me of my clients, who are challenged every day as they live life with Alzheimer’s. To me, it speaks volumes on how individuals living with a dementia or Alzheimer’s go about their day, day after day.

A family caregiver faces many challenges while caring for their loved one who has Alzheimer’s. One of those challenges deals with communication. The family becomes frustrated trying to figure out what Grandma is trying to get across to them. Grandma gets upset at trying to get her thoughts out or to be understood. Words just don’t come easily or even come at all. Frustration, stress, and hurt feelings are experienced daily for those who are slowly losing their ability to communicate.

In the beginning, for a person with Alzheimer’s, there may be little to no problems with communication. There could be the occasional misuse of calling something by the wrong word or forgetting the correct word use for an item. One may forget a person’s name or call them by a different name. You and others may not notice any problems with their communication.

As Alzheimer’s progresses through the region of the brain that affects memory and thinking and planning, you will notice the individual having more and more trouble expressing themselves. They will also have problems organizing their thoughts. This will be a time of great frustration for the individual with Alzheimer’s and those caring for them.

Towards the very end, the one with Alzheimer’s will not be able to verbally communicate due to the brain being so compromised. This will be a tough time but you will still be able to communicate with each other even if it seems to be one-sided.

Every day we all use a nonverbal system of communication. We wave a hand to get someone’s attention. We laugh at other’s jokes. We may frown and roll our eyes to imply we are not happy with something. Yes, we can communicate a lot with our body and facial expressions. So remember while  communicating smile, laugh, hold hands and look into their eyes to show love and acceptance to the one living with Alzheimer’s.

Here are some suggestions from the book The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss in Later Life, to improve verbal communication with your loved one during the mild to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s.

  • Make sure he does hear you.
  • Lower the tone (pitch) of your voice.
  • Eliminate distracting noises or activities.
  • Use short words and short, simple sentences.
  • Ask only one simple question at a time.
  • Ask the person to do one task at a time, not several.
  • Speak slowly, and wait for the person to respond.

St. John’s Community Care provides training to our employees on the topic of understanding memory loss which includes communication. Our support groups also help family caregivers to have a better understanding of how to communicate with their loved one living with Alzheimer’s.

If you need help in understanding or caring for your loved one, call us and we will meet with you to see what program or services we offer that may be beneficial for the two of you. Remember that the most important thing to communicate is your love.




































It’s A Brain Disease

By Gail J. Shaw,
Home Services Care Coordinator – 

The 2015 AlShe would love a phone call, a shared cup of coffee or just a little bit of your timezheimer’s Association fact sheet states someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds and goes on to state in 2050, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds. So, in the time it takes to scramble your morning eggs, someone will develop Alzheimer’s.

Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary defines memory as the mental faculty of storing past experiences and recalling them at will.  We have come to understand Alzheimer’s and related dementias not only causes one to loss their memory but also there is the loss of social skills, intellect and they may show emotional and behavior changes.

Alzheimer’s/dementia is considered a brain disease. Plaques and tangles form in the brain and starts the process which will compromise the brain. We now know Alzheimer’s has a set circuit that it follows through the brain. As it travels through the brain, the brain becomes more and more damaged.

In the beginning stage, it first affects the area of the brain that handles the memory, learning, thinking and planning. One may not really be too aware that something is starting at this point. There is very little impact on one’s daily life.

In the mild to moderate Alzheimer’s stage, more plaques and tangles are formed.  Speaking, understanding speech, perception and judgement will be affected.  There may also be changes in one’s personality and behavior issues. Individuals will become more confused and their daily lives will start to be affected by their memory loss. This is the beginning of the person’s decline in remembering loved ones. This stage is when the majority of individuals are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Some will be able to understand they have memory loss.  Others may never be able to understand they have Alzheimer’s. This is due to either not being advised they have the disease or because that part of the brain has been so compromised the individual does not have the ability to understand.

By the final stage of Alzheimer’s, the brain is seriously compromised and has taken a physical toll on the body. Individuals will not be able to care for themselves, communicate and even know their own family members. They will be totally depended on someone to care for all their needs.

Not understanding memory loss can be frustrating for both the caregiver and the person with memory loss at any stage.  St. John’s Community Care works with family caregivers and our employees to help each to better understand memory loss. This is accomplished through training, workshops, support groups and printed materials. The outcome of these educational endeavors improves one’s working knowledge of how to care for someone with memory loss and helps to create a less stressful working relationship between the caregiver and the one experiencing memory loss.

If you or someone you know feels they are experiencing memory loss, consider contacting St. John’s Community Care. We can provide assistance and education on how to handle memory loss issues, direct you to appropriate support groups and/or work with you to get in-home to care to relieve caregiving duties and stress.

You’re not alone when it comes to facing the journey of living with memory loss or caring for a loved one who has memory loss. Together, we can make a positive difference in the life of someone living with this devastating brain disease.


Cardinals Reminiscence League


Cardinal Poster - All Dates

Cardinals Reminiscence League Expanding to Serve More People with Memory Loss – Next Session Will Be Held on Thursday, April 21.
St. John’s Community Care partners with Alzheimer’s Association to host new program

Edwardsville – In partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, St. John’s Community Care is proud to announce a new program for people with memory loss: Cardinals Reminiscence League (CRL). CRL builds on the reminiscence therapy concept that memorabilia and other prompts can be used to stimulate conversations about shared memories of past experiences. Individuals with mild memory loss or in the early stages of dementia meet to share pleasant baseball memories in hopes of enhancing their mood and communication skills.

St. John’s Community Care will provide this free program, launched and supported by the Alzheimer’s Association, to those with Alzheimer’s and related dementia, as well as their care partners.

“We are extremely happy to be able to offer this valuable program in Edwardsville. Cardinal Reminiscence League is a bold, optimistic and innovative approach to aid people with memory loss. Programs like this are a vision for how we can change the way we think and care for people with memory loss,”  said Nancy Berry, Executive Director for St. John’s Community Care.

“The Alzheimer’s Association has had success hosting the Cardinals Reminiscence League and is excited to partner with St. John’s Community Care to expand this group and reach more people,” said Stephanie Rohlfs-Young, Alzheimer’s Association St. Louis Chapter Vice President of Programs.

The CRL program was originally developed in 2011 as a partnership between the Alzheimer’s Association St. Louis Chapter, Saint Louis University, St. Louis Veterans Administration (VA), St. Louis Cardinals baseball organization and the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame Museum.

The program is the brainchild of John Morley, M.D., director of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University.  Dr. Morley was inspired by the Football Reminiscence Partnership of Scotland, where soccer is more than a pastime. Much like Cardinals baseball, it is a passion.

“Individuals with dementia and a caregiver are invited to participate. We have seen a high level of interest over the years,” said Rohlfs-Young. “It’s a true testament to how beneficial the program is and how St. Louisans love their team!”

Visit to learn more about Cardinals Reminiscence League and the participating locations.

For more information about St. John’s Community Care visit, or call 618-656-7090.
For more information about Alzheimer’s, visit or call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.

About the Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is the world leader in Alzheimer’s care, support and research.  The St. Louis Chapter serves 38 counties in eastern Missouri and western Illinois, providing comprehensive care and support programs.  The Alzheimer’s Association mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. For additional information about the disease, family support or research, visit the Alzheimer’s Association St. Louis Chapter web site at, or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.


About St. John’s Community Care

St. John’s Community Care has been the leader in aging and dementia care support services and resources in our community since 1985. St. John’s is an outreach ministry of St. John Evangelical United Church of Christ in Collinsville, IL. For much of the past 30 years, St. John’s Community Care has focused on ways to help families care for an aging or disabled loved one, with special efforts for those experiencing memory loss or dementia. For additional information about services or programs, visit St. John’s Community Care web site at, or call 618-344-5008.


Good Balance Is Important

leg liftHave you ever felt dizzy, lightheaded, or even thought the room was spinning around you? It can be troublesome and, if it happens often, it could be a sign of a balance problem.

Having good balance means being able to control and maintain your body’s position, whether you are moving or remaining still. If you have balance you walk without staggering, get up from a chair without falling, climb stairs without tripping.

Balance disorders are one reason older people fall. Fall-related injuries, such as hip fracture, can have a serious impact on an older person’s life. A fall could limit activities or make it impossible to live independently. Many people become more isolated after a fall.

Here is an exercise you can try that can help improve your balance. Be sure to use a sturdy chair or a person nearby to hold on to if you feel unsteady. Talk with your doctor if you are unsure about doing particular exercises.

Place both hands on the back of the chair. Stand on one foot behind the sturdy chair, holding on with both hands for balance. Hold position for 10 seconds. Repeat 10—15 times. Repeat with the other leg. As your strength grows and you feel more confident, you may be able to hold onto the chair with one hand. As you feel steady, try using just one finger to balance you. Then try balancing without holding on.

Source: National Institute on Aging and NIH Senior Health.



Caregiver Support Groups

St. John’s support groups provide opportunities for families and friends to discuss their concerns and uncertainties, as well as find resources to help regain a sense of  balance and hope. We also provide information about helpful coping techniques and resources to make your job as caregiver a little less stressful. The sessions  allow you to listen and discuss common issues with the group, leaving you with more understanding and a sense that you are not alone.  There is no charge to attend.   Alzheimer’s Support Group—Collinsville 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Join others dealing with dementia and memory loss at St. John’s Community Care in Collinsville. Sessions are held the 2nd Tuesday of each month. Complimentary care for loved ones available with reservation. Call 618-344-5008.   Family Caregiver Support Group—Collinsville 5:30—7:00 p.m. This support group is intended for family caregivers caring for loved ones with any type of disability.  Join us at St. John’s Community Care in Collinsville for a light complimentary dinner and session held the 2nd Wednesday of every month. Complimentary care for loved ones is available with a reservation.  Call 618-344-5008.   Family Caregiver Support Group—Edwardsville 6:30 p.m.—8:00 p.m. This support group is intended for family caregivers caring for loved ones with any type of disability.  Join us at St. John’s Community Care in Edwardsville. Sessions are held the 3rd Wednesday of each month. Call 618-656-7090.