Communication Difficulties

Difficulty in communication may be an early warning sign of Alzheimer's disease

You know that moment, when you’re talking and can’t for the life of you remember the right word to use? It’s just on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t seem to find it! You feel frustrated and joke about having a ‘senior’ moment, yet you’re only 30. This is quite natural, and we all get it from time to time, no matter how old we are.

Some of us, well most of us in fact, are just hopeless at remembering peoples’ names when we’ve first been introduced to them (as a small aside, if you’ve ever wondered why this happens, click here for a fun YouTube video that gives the explanation). It’s when you begin to struggle with finding words in general and following conversations when talking with others, that it is important to eliminate Alzheimer’s as the cause.

It’s not about forgetting the occasional word, which we all invariably do and recall only a short time later, but having considerable difficulty with communication in general, that could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. Someone who might have always been a very social person – the life and soul of the party, begins to show signs of not being able to follow a conversation and muddles their words.

The following are possible warning signs to watch out for:

  • Frequently struggling to find simple words to use in conversation and writing
  • Substituting incorrect words for familiar things, such as calling a watch a ‘hand clock’
  • Difficulty in joining, following and maintaining an everyday conversation
  • Repeating the same thing multiple times during a conversation, or stopping mid-conversation and being confused how to continue it.

Although it may sound corny, Mum and I were best friends. I had a lot of health problems growing up and so Mum and I spent a lot more time together than would be typical in a mother/daughter relationship. We both loved socialising and being with people, and we certainly never ran out of things to talk about!

About six years before Mum’s official Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I found her becoming increasingly evasive when I asked her a direct question. This was completely out of character, as Mum was a very open person and would always speak honestly. I couldn’t understand it at the time, as the questions would seem simple enough, but Mum just wouldn’t give me a direct answer.

Mum would skirt neatly around the complete perimeter of the question, always avoiding giving me the answer. It was SO frustrating. It seemed a simple enough question to me, but could I get Mum to give me a simple answer? No! Of course I came to realise it was because she wasn’t able to give me that answer, as she wasn’t even properly comprehending the question.

This is a very common way for people living with Alzheimer’s to try and keep up the appearance that everything is okay. At this early stage of the disease Mum must have been aware that she was becoming confused and couldn’t give me the answers to my questions, but naturally tried to pretend everything was normal.