An estimated one million Americans have Parkinson’s Disease (PD), many of which are aged 65+. As the 14th leading cause of death in the US, Parkinson’s is neurodegenerative disorder that presents with symptoms like tremors, a shuffling gait and forgetfulness. When Parkinson’s progresses, it can create communication barriers that make caregiving more challenging. As a caregiver, finding ways to bridge that communication gap is essential for providing the level of care that your loved one needs. What follows are some ways to make it happen. 

How Parkinson’s Affects Communication

Communication is a vital for human beings to connect, build and maintain relationships. Once your loved one begins to experience communication issues due to Parkinson’s, it can interfere with your relationship and ability to address their care needs.

Brain cells, motor skills and muscles that are used for speaking, listening and comprehending are targeted. As a result, PD can create communication challenges like:

  • Difficulty finding the “right” words
  • Difficulty concentrating or expressing thoughts in a timely fashion
  • Forgetfulness and difficulty in retrieval of learned information
  • Embarrassment resulting from not being able to form words
  • Trouble following a conversation with numerous people in a room talking

As a family caregiver the first step is recognizing the fact that communication barriers now exist. Unfortunately, failing to do so may result in a diminished level of care that affects your loved one’s quality of life.

Communication Tips for PD Caregivers

There are two main forms of communication: verbal and non-verbal. While using these communication tips, always remember to be patient and listen carefully to your loved one:

Sit face-to-face

Your loved one may get frustrated easily, so always be aware of your facial expressions. Sitting face-to-face in the same room allows you to maximize both verbal and non-verbal communication opportunities. Maintain eye contact at-all-times and eliminate distractions by turning off the TV, closing the curtains and/or muting your phone.

Ask basic questions

The second rule for communicating effectively is to not ask questions that require an elaborate response. Using a gentle, non-threatening tone of voice try to limit your questions to those that can be answered in simple ways. If you can’t understand something your loved one said, don’t hesitate to ask them to clarify their statement. Because it takes someone with PD longer to process information, encourage your senior to speak slowly and carefully.

For example, you may realize that they want to go to the store, but they didn’t tell you which one. Follow up with a more direct question like: “What would you like from the store?” or “Which store are we talking about?”

Focus on body language

Because of muscle rigidity or slow movement your loved one’s body language may not tell you what they are trying to express. On the other hand, your body language- good or bad- will be much easier to read. Another non-verbal communication skill to concentrate on is body language, including how you position your hands and arms. Be sure to avoid sudden movements or threatening gestures that could frustrate or intimidate your loved one.

Get creative

Work with your loved one to develop a system of hand signals to cue you in to what they need. For example, if they want to use the toilet or are hungry. Use non-verbal cues like smiling, pointing, waving or other facial expressions in combination with words to get a point across.

Speech therapy

Parkinson’s interferes with the entire speech process by weakening muscles in the mouth, lips, tongue and diaphragm. Working with a licensed speech therapist can help your loved one maintain and even regain communication skills lost to muscle weakness.

In-Home Parkinson’s Support for Seniors in Florida

Although it’s highly rewarding, caring for an aging loved one with Parkinson’s can also be tiring and stressful. When you need to take a break the professional caregivers from First In Care can step in and provide your senior with the nurturing they deserve. While serving families touched by Parkinson’s disease, our highly trained professionals understand what’s required to maintain a loved one’s quality of life and dignity- including the ability to bridge the communication gap.

In addition to those services, First In Care also provides in-home support for other daily living activities like personal hygiene, light housework, transportation and companionship. Our senior caregiving services are affordable, flexible, and always delivered in a seamless package that restores your peace-of-mind. For more information about our family-trusted senior home care services available in Bradenton and Manatee County, Florida, please visit now.