The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease results in the symptoms of dementia as it affects the efficiency of the brains communication; the physical disease is shown to cause ‘protein plaques’ and ‘tangles’ within the brain which causes loss of communication between never cells which ultimately become dead cells. Alzheimer’s disease will affect the way an individual communicates as they often become confused and unable to recognise someone or where they are. Memory loss is a big element with Alzheimer’s disease and it causes the individual to have big mood swings, mainly because they are getting frustrated with themselves if they cannot remember something/someone. Individual’s with Alzheimer’s disease also lose their confidence and become withdrawn into themselves as they struggle with communicating and can no longer go by independently with their activities.
The second most common form of dementia is vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is caused through a damaged vascular system which causes the brains blood supply to run thin ultimately causing cells to die due to lack of blood/oxygen. While vascular dementia sufferers have similar symptoms of those with Alzheimer’s disease the way it effects their communication can vary. Individuals with vascular dementia also have problems with their memory but they also find it difficult to concentrate on the task in hand/conversations, their speed of thinking also varies.
A less common form of dementia is dementia with Lewy Bodies. Lewy body dementia shares symptoms with both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It is caused by the tiny deposits of protein in the brains nerve cells (known as lewy bodies). Individuals with this type of dementia have been shown to have insufficent levels of important chemicals in their brain and the communication between nerve cells are lost causing brain tissue to die. Individuals with this form of dementia struggle with paying attention and being alert, which may have an effect on their communication skills. Like Alzheimer’s disease, individuals with dementia with Lewy bodies will struggle with their memory and may become agitated if they cannot get their words out properly.
Frontotemporal dementia is another form of a less common dementia. This occurs when the frontal lobe and/or temporal lobe’s nerve endings die and they cannot communicate anymore ultimately causing the frontal and temporal lobes to shrink. As the frontal and temporal lobes are responsible for behaviour/emotions/language (depending which side) then it is known that individuals with Frontotemporal dementia suffer from personality and behaviour changes. While an individual with Frontotemporal dementia’s behaviour may change, they also have great difficulties communicating if the left temporal lobe is affected. The individual may struggle to get their words out or may find it hard to understand complex sentences as their brain cannot process it. Sufferers are also known to struggle putting sentences together and are known to use ‘telegraphic speech’.
Overall, all four forms of dementia are varied when it comes to the impact of an individual’s communication skills, but it also greatly depends on what stage of dementia they are at. If the dementia is still in the first stage then the individual may not be greatly affected, but if the dementia is in its last stage then the individual will most likely have no idea who they are, where they are or understand any means of communication.
One physical factor that needs to be taken into consideration when communicating with an individual with dementia is sensory impairment, the most common two being hearing and eyesight. If you are communicating with an individual who is deaf or has poor hearing and dementia then the obvious first step to take will be to make sure that the individual’s hearing aids are working and ask them give you some form of sign (i.e. verbally, a thumbs up or a