If you have an elderly loved one in your family, you probably love to hear stories about the good old days. Still, as individuals age, they often lose the ability to speak clearly or at all. As a caring person, you may be looking for ways to continue to communicate.
Maintaining effective communication is critical for your relative’s emotional, psychological and even physical well-being. Here are some suggestions on what to do when your elderly loved one stops talking.
Understand the cause
Rarely do individuals stop talking for no reason. If your elderly relative loses the ability to speak, your first objective is likely to be to determine why. One or more of the following may be the culprit:
- Brain injury
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
If your loved one’s communication impairment comes from a treatable condition, you may be able to restore his or her speech by pursuing the correct diagnosis and treatment. You should watch for signs of nursing home abuse and neglect, however, as his or her sudden and unexplainable silence may be due to mistreatment.
Try other communication techniques
Once you rule out both treatable conditions and nursing home abuse, you must look for other ways to communicate. Hopefully, your loved one has not lost his or her ability to hear. If he or she has not, you may be able to communicate verbally.
Touch therapy can also be extremely useful. With this approach, you tell your loved one you are going to touch his or her arms, shoulders, back or legs. Then, you look for signs of receptiveness to your touching. These may include changes in breathing, facial expressions or movements.
Listening to music with your loved one and reading books to him or her also help you to maintain verbal contact. Ultimately, though, anything you do to connect with your elderly relative is apt to make a difference.