Tips for Communicating with Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s

Author: Christine Browning

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be frightening to everyone. Not only does it create memory loss, but also makes any communication at all very difficult as the disease progresses. If you have a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, we know this can be a scary time, so we put together some tips to help you continue to have effective communication with your family member, as well as everyone involved.

Use Face-to-Face Communication. With any type of cognitive decline, it’s important that you use eye contact and call them by their name. Using their name helps to get their full attention and looking them in the eye can be reassuring.

Lessen Any Distractions. Make sure televisions and radios are turned down when trying to speak. Background noise can be very distracting so it’s important to find a place to talk in peace, so they don’t forget what your conversation is about.

One-On-One Communication. Trying to talk to a person with Alzheimer’s can be very frustrating if there are too many people around. Always try to talk to them when you can be face-to-face in a quiet spot, by yourselves. Other people standing around or trying to also be a part of the conversation can create confusion and anxiety.

Keep it Simple. Much research has shown us that conversations with a person who suffers from dementia should be kept short and sweet. Keep things simple and get right to the point without a lot of small talk. Simplicity helps keep your loved one from becoming frustrated with too many choices. Ask specific questions rather than open-ended ones.

Avoid Conflict. Arguing with a person who has dementia or Alzheimer’s is futile. It only serves to frustrate and upset both of you. When a disagreement happens it’s important that you don’t use inflammatory comments like “I just told you that” or “Why can’t you just listen?” If frustration is brewing, walk away and get some air.

Be Patient. Don’t try to finish their sentences if they are struggling. Instead, try to zero in on the point they are trying to make and help them by saying something that might jog their memory a bit. Finishing their sentences for them does nothing to help them remember anything, so be patient and just try to help them by asking specific questions.

Enter Their World. It’s important to realize that a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s is living in a different reality from yours. The disease can rob them of being in their right mind all the time. This could manifest in things like them thinking their spouse who died years ago is still alive. If this happens, it’s perfectly okay to just play along if it’s not hurting anyone. You will never convince them that you’re right and they’re wrong, so go along with whatever reality they insist on and it will often help lighten the mood.

Get Creative in Your Conversation. Choices are often difficult and frustrating with Alzheimer’s, so getting creative in your communication can help ease that frustration. A good example of this would be to point to the choices they have, rather than just list them off. Finding out whether they would rather have a turkey sandwich, or a ham sandwich might be too much, but instead, point to the particular items and ask which they would rather have.

Finally, keep on talking even if they are not talking back! They may get to the stage of being unable to have any effective communication, so it’s important that you show love and support by continuing to speak to them, tell stories, and have meaningful conversations.

For more tips on communicating with someone who has dementia or Alzheimer’s, contact us today!

Home Helpers of Barrington is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including 24 hour care, live-in care, home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, Alzheimer's & dementia care, Parkinson's care as well as homemaker services in Barrington, Lake Bluff, Libertyville, Lincolnshire, Buffalo Grove, Vernon Hills, Mundelein, Wauconda, Fox River Grove, Hawthorn Woods, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Wheeling, Inverness, Carpentersville, Kildeer, Cary, Lake Zurich, Deer Park, Prospect Heights, Grayslake, and Long Grove, Illinois.

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