A woman looks frustrated as speech bubbles with question marks and static float around her, as she struggles to speak.

Expressing Myself: Contending With Communication

I was always known by my friends as having the "gift of gab" – whatever that means. But since my Alzheimer's diagnosis that is certainly not the case. Now, I have a hard time expressing myself. It is so frustrating as I have been a television news reporter, a writer, a speaker, and an advocate.

I am often called upon to speak about my Alzheimer's experiences and I am happy to do that. I can follow and read a script of prompts for a presentation. Most of the time I can answer questions from the audience as they are usually questions I get all the time.

Everyday communication gets trickier.

A wonky filter

​​A speech bubble full of static next to a speech bubble with a question mark.In the mornings, I am fine. I have had a good night's rest and my brain has not yet gotten attacked by all the outside noise and clutter. As the day progresses it gets much more difficult.

I can form the words in my brain, but can't necessarily get them out of my mouth. I can not find the right words. I am afraid I am going to say something that is going to embarrass me. Some days, I have no filter.

We are trying our best

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease, I hope you know your loved one is trying their best to communicate, but it does not always come out the right way.

Don't try to correct them – just go along with it. They are just as frustrated as you are. They are not doing it on purpose. It is easy for us to get confused especially if there are many people in the room talking.

I find myself becoming silent because I have a feeling that what I say is going to get misconstrued. I mean no harm, but I know on more than one occasion some people have taken what I say to be hurtful - that is the last thing I want to happen, so many times, I clam up and figure I should be an observer instead of a participant.

Living with communication challenges caused by Alzheimer's

A speech bubble with a question and one with an ellipsis.​​​​​​It is important for those of us living with Alzheimer's to stay socially active. Ineffective communication skills can make that awkward for everyone, but we have to keep trying.

If you find yourself taking your loved one to a social outing, I hope you can help by letting those around you know you are bringing someone with you that has Alzheimer's and sometimes the responses you get to questions might not be what you were expecting. Or, that if that person is sitting quietly instead of engaging that it is fine.

We don't need people coming up to us asking us if we are doing okay or pointing out to us that we are awfully quiet. If that happens to me and I feel as if I can speak, I usually say, "I am struggling right now and it is not a good time for me." Some take offense to that but it is as truthful as I can be.

Don't be offended by our words, they are not meant to harm, they are just the only words we can say at the time. We are just grateful to be included in a gathering.

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