Having a conversation requires thinking, using facial muscles, and breathing. When someone has HD, these areas aren’t working as well. Psychological reasons and mood can also decrease a person’s interest in having a conversation.
When a person lacks the ability and opportunity to express themselves, they can feel angry, irritable, disorganized, depressed, anxious, and frustrated.
Having a conversation with someone who is hard to understand and speaks incoherently can also be frustrating.
The best strategies for minimizing everyone’s frustration are:
- Be patient. Allow a person with HD lots of extra time to respond.
- Speak in simple, short sentences.
- Ask questions in a “yes or no”, or “this or that” format instead of open-ended.
- If you can’t understand a word or phrase, ask the person to write it down or write down the first letter.
- Give directions in small steps.
- Keep up conversations with people even if they have lost the ability to speak to you. This helps reduce feeling alone.
- Speech therapy can help people speak more clearly.
- Be empathetic. Ask how someone is feeling instead of guessing.
- State your feelings in plane language. It’s harder for people with HD to understand your facial expressions.
- Focus on one subject at a time.
- Couple or family counseling can provide extra communication practice