7 Easy Ways to Enhance Communication with Your Loved One with Early-Stage Alzheimer’s


Feeling frustrated and lost when trying to communicate with your loved one who has early-stage Alzheimer’s? You’re not alone.

If you’re like many others in this situation, you’ve probably thought, “I just wish I knew how to connect better with them.” And it’s perfectly okay to feel that way. 

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be like navigating a maze where the walls keep shifting. You’re doing your best, but it can wear you down.

But don’t give up hope. Relief is just around the corner.

Picture of a young child and grandmother looking at the calendar

In this month’s blog post, I’m addressing this topic for two reasons:

  1. June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, which makes this the perfect time to talk about this, and
  2. There are actually many things you can do to improve communication with your loved one during the early and mid-stages of Alzheimer’s—and many people aren’t aware of these options.

So, let’s cut through the noise together.


This article isn’t just about tips; it’s about reclaiming those moments of connection with your loved one and easing the frustration you’ve been feeling.

Below, we’ll dive into seven practical, easy-to-implement strategies that will help bridge the gap and make communication smoother.

Ready to discover some game-changing insights? Let’s begin.

  1. Enhancing Understanding with Visual Aids and Cues

Communication with someone who has early-stage Alzheimer’s can feel like trying to understand a different language. Visual aids and cues can be lifesavers here. Think of them as your secret weapons in this journey.

Start by incorporating pictures. Imagine labeling common household items with clear, colorful images. A picture of a toothbrush on the bathroom cabinet or a cup on the kitchen shelf can work wonders. These visual reminders can reduce confusion and make day-to-day tasks feel less daunting for your loved one.

Gestures can also bridge gaps where words fail. Simple actions, like pointing or demonstrating an activity, can clarify your message. If you’re trying to convey that it’s time to eat, you might point to the dining table or mimic eating. These small actions speak volumes.

Creating a photo board is another excellent idea. Fill it with images representing daily activities. Morning coffee, afternoon walks, and evening relaxation—all captured in pictures.

Simply point to the appropriate photo when it’s time for that activity. This visual routine helps set expectations and provides a comforting structure to their day.

If you’d like to dig deeper into the topic of memory aids (visual and otherwise), the Alzheimer’s Society offers some specific ideas here.

  1. Simplify Language and Cultivate Patience for Better Response

You might feel like you’re repeating yourself a lot. That’s probably because the way you’re saying things is causing your loved one some processing difficulties. Here’s how to improve the situation:

  • Simplify your language. Use short, clear sentences, and forget the fancy words and jargon. Stick to the basics.
  • When you speak, do it slowly. Give each word time to sink in. Imagine you’re explaining something complex to a child—patience is key. They need extra time to process what you’ve said. It’s like letting a sponge soak up water; it takes time, but eventually, it all gets absorbed.
  • Avoid multi-step instructions. Instead of saying, “Can you grab the book from the shelf and put it on the table?” break it down. Start with, “Can you get the book?” Once they have the book, say, “Put it on the table, please.” This step-by-step approach is less overwhelming.

Remember, patience isn’t just a virtue here; it’s a necessity. They might need more time to respond, and they still might ask you to repeat things. It’s OK.

Breathe, smile, and keep the frustration at bay. You’re building a bridge, one word at a time.

  1. Routines Give Structure and Reduce Frustration

Routines are your new best friend. They offer your loved one a sense of security and predictability, which is incredibly soothing for someone with Alzheimer’s. Think of a routine as a map through the maze.

Start with the basics: meals, activities, and rest. Set specific times for each and stick to them. Breakfast at 8 AM, a walk at 10 AM, lunch at noon—you get the idea. This regularity helps reduce anxiety and confusion.

Also, creating a visual schedule can be a game-changer. A simple chart with pictures representing each activity can provide constant reassurance about what’s coming next. They can glance at the chart and know it’s time for lunch or an afternoon nap.

Consistency is crucial. While spontaneous adventures can be fun, they can also be disorienting. Try to keep surprises to a minimum. If you need to introduce something new, do it gradually. Integrate it into the existing routine bit by bit.

To go deeper on establishing routines with your loved one, check out this article from the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.

  1. Engage in Meaningful Activities Together to Keep the Connection Alive

Shared activities aren’t just about passing time. They’re about creating moments of connection. Think of them as golden opportunities to strengthen your bond.

  • Puzzles are great for stimulating the mind. They can be simple jigsaws or more complex brain teasers, depending on what your loved one enjoys.
  • Gardening is another wonderful option. Planting flowers, pulling weeds, or simply watering plants can be incredibly calming and fulfilling.
  • Cooking together can also be a meaningful activity. Simple tasks like stirring a pot, mixing ingredients, or setting the table can provide a sense of accomplishment. Plus, the sensory experience of cooking—the smells, the textures, the tastes—is incredibly engaging.

Remember, the goal isn’t perfection with the activity. It’s about the experience and the interaction.

These activities create natural opportunities for conversation. They provide a shared focus, making it easier to communicate and connect.

  1. Utilize Sensory Stimulation to Increase Interaction

Sensory activities can be powerful tools in your communication toolkit. They engage different senses and can help break through the fog of Alzheimer’s.

  • Music is a fantastic example. Play their favorite songs and watch how they respond. Music can trigger memories and emotions that words might not reach. Singing along, tapping to the rhythm, or even dancing can create joyful moments.
  • Aromatherapy can also be beneficial. Familiar scents like lavender, rosemary, or citrus can be calming and evocative. You might light a scented candle or use essential oils. These aromas can help set a positive mood and enhance your interactions.
  • Tactile objects can be comforting. Create a sensory box filled with items that have different textures. Soft fabrics, smooth stones, and fuzzy toys can provide a soothing sensory experience. These objects can also serve as conversation starters. “Does this feel nice?” or “What does this remind you of?”

Check out this article to learn more about sensory stimulation therapy.

  1. Encourage Non-Verbal Communication to Reduce the Stress of Finding the Right Words

Words aren’t the only way to communicate, and sometimes your loved one can become frustrated when the right word doesn’t come easily. In this case, non-verbal cues can be just as powerful. Think of them as your silent second language.

Facial expressions, body language, and touch can convey a lot. A smile, a gentle touch on the hand, or a warm hug can express what words sometimes can’t.

Be mindful of and responsive to their non-verbal cues too. A frown, a puzzled look, or restless movements can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling.

Encouraging these non-verbal communications can create a deeper connection. If they smile, smile back. If they reach out to you, take their hand. Mirroring their actions shows understanding and empathy. It’s like saying, “I get you,” without uttering a word.

Remember, it’s not just about understanding them. It’s also about making them feel understood. Non-verbal communication is a two-way street. It’s about reading their signals and sending your own.

  1. Tap into the Power of Apps that Talk for You

While the previous six tips can be accomplished without the use of a device, technology can be a tremendous ally. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) apps are designed to assist with speech and can be incredibly helpful for someone with early-stage Alzheimer’s.

One such app is our very own APP2Speak. This app provides a voice to those who struggle with verbal communication. It’s like having a portable communication board. With pictures and pre-set phrases, it can help convey your loved one’s needs and thoughts more clearly.

Getting started with APP2Speak is straightforward and easy. Just download the app and spend some time exploring its features. Set up personalized pages with images that are relevant to your loved one’s daily life. For example, you can create a page for meal choices, activities, or personal care.

Then, encourage your loved one to use the app in their daily routine. Whether it’s to express a need, ask a question, or simply share a thought, APP2Speak can empower them to communicate more effectively.

It’s a small tool, but it can have a big impact, providing a voice when words fail.

To set up a personalized demonstration of what APP2Speak can do for your loved one, just fill out the form on our Contact page.

Together, You Can Navigate the Challenges of Alzheimer’s

If you’ve had those moments when you’re staring into the eyes of your loved one, wishing more than anything that you could just understand what they need and what they feel, you know that it can be tough. Really tough.

But you’re not just standing still—you’re reaching out, searching for those threads that still connect you both. That’s powerful.

But just imagine the difference it could make if you implemented just a few of the changes we’ve talked about in this post.

Visual cues that spark recognition, simple words that ease understanding, routines that bring comfort—these aren’t just strategies, they’re lifelines thrown across the divide that Alzheimer’s tries to create.

So, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and dive in.

Start small. Pick one strategy today—maybe introduce a new picture board or download the APP2Speak app. Watch the difference it begins to make, not just in your communication, but in your relationship. It’s about adding quality, adding life, to your days together.

Each step you take using these methods isn’t just progress; it’s a victory. A shared puzzle solved, a favorite melody hummed together, a new memory made—even in the midst of challenges. These moments? They’re pure gold.

And as you try, remember this: every effort you make is a testament to your love and dedication. You’re doing an incredible job in a role that demands extraordinary strength and compassion. Take a deep breath, feel the weight lift as you realize you’re not just surviving this journey—you’re mastering it.

And please, feel free to reach out to us to share your own experiences of helping your loved one navigate Alzheimer’s. You can email use at support@app2speak.com. We’d love to hear from you!