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Strategies for Care Partners

Communication Strategies for Care Partners

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