Talks very little

  All Alzheimer's Symptoms

When it happens

Severe dementia. Early in the severe stage, your loved one may speak noticeably less than before. By late (end-stage) dementia, you may hear fewer than four to six words a day.

Why it happens

Communication is a complex process that's been diminishing over time; this is the end of that process.

What you can do

  • Follow routines in order to better help you anticipate needs (for food, toileting help, being moved) that the person can no longer articulate.

  • Tune into the emotions being expressed when words fail. You can often sense a difference between someone who's happy or in pain, for example. Likewise, your emotions can be sensed; staying positive is helpful.

  • Pay closer attention than ever to body language (holding a sore leg) and expressions (grimaces, frowns).

  • Consider installing a baby monitor in the room at night to help you hear moans or calls signaling a need for help.

  • Don't mistake a lack of speech for a lack of feeling. Someone with severe dementia still has strong emotions and deserves as much attention, respect, and love as before.

  • Make your own communications easy to understand: Speak clearly and slowly; use a slightly exaggerated emotional tone to express happiness or concern; approach your loved one from within his or her line of sight, rather than from behind so you don't startle him or her.

  • Communicate with other sounds: Play music, set up a bird feeder that can attract singing birds (heard through a window), play CDs of tropical sounds or waves, hum. Sometimes even someone with severe dementia responds in kind to singing and humming.