Alzheimer's art

Communication is relational so staying connected in the late stage of the disease is key to maintaining the affected person's sense of self and quality of life.

While your loved one may only be able to muster a few words, it’s important to remember that your presence is more significant than actually doing something specific for the them. Use familiar words; just the sound of your voice helps maintain that connection between you.

Try to be with your loved one in ways that make him or her feel comfortable. Connecting through the five senses can be very beneficial.

For instance, connecting through touch includes giving hand or back massages with soothing lotions, stroking pets, feeling various types of fabrics or  brushing his or her hair.

Though your loved one may have limited vision or is suffering from macular degeneration, views can provide stimulus for communication. Try to situate his or her bed by a window providing a view of nature. Putting a hummingbird feeder outside the window, for instance, can be a source of visual satisfaction and spark conversation. Brightly colored pictures or paintings of favorite settings can do the same.

The sense of smell may diminish with age and the disease progression, but you may be able to relate to your loved one by awakening his or her sense of smell. Fill small bottles with coffee beans or cotton balls that are soaked or sprinkled with various aromas, such as herbs, spices and essential oils. For example, smelling cinnamon may evoke memories of a fresh baked pie or French toast.

Even in the late stage of the disease, taste can be a way to connect. Try favorite foods, though take caution as the ability to swallow starts to diminish and choking can become a hazard. Enhance his or her taste buds with favorite foods, providing strong flavor sensations to connect. Fresh baked goodies, fruit smoothies, Popsicles, flavored drinks and yogurts are all good choices for stimulating the sense of taste.

Music is a universal language, so integrating music into this late stage of Alzheimer’s will soothe your loved one and help you connect in personal ways. Sing favorite melodies, dance with him or her and try to have favorite music playing in the background when you’re not there.

Communicate by listening and understanding that your loved one's feeling and perspectives are very real to him or her, so respond with validation. Always be empathic and reassuring, using soft, gentle tones and accept the changes the disease brings. Give praise and compliments, laugh a lot, stay focused on your love for them, and keep in mind that your loved one is an adult with a sense of self that should always be respected and honored.

Questions about Alzheimer's disease or related disorders can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, owner of Dana Territo Consulting, LLC, at