Alzheimer's Disease

Conversing with an Alzheimer’s Patient

CaregiverHave you ever felt frustrated communicating with a friend or family member who has Alzheimer’s? Well…you are not alone. One common symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease is the increasing difficulty to communicate with others. It starts with the inability to find the right words and as the disease progresses, the person with Alzheimer’s may have difficulty making logical sense and sometimes may revert to a native language. At advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, the person often speaks less and sometimes relies primarily on gestures to communicate.

Therefore, it is extremely important to know how to better communicate with the person suffering from Alzheimer’s during the various stages of the disease.

  • No Surprises –  Always approach your loved one from the front so you don’t startle them.  Establish eye contact before speaking. If necessary, get down to their eye level.
  • Show Respect – Refer to them by name. Include them in conversations, and don’t talk to others about them as if they weren’t there.
  • Keep it Simple – Give directions one step at a time, use short sentences, and ask questions that require a simple yes or no answer.
  • Avoid Distractions – If possible, take them somewhere quiet to chat. Don’t talk to them against a background of competing sights and sounds.
  • Avoid Criticism – Don’t correct your loved one. Rather, try to find the meaning of what they are saying. And never argue with him or her. It will only agitate them.
  • Listen – Offer comfort if they are having difficulty communicating. Give them time to answer or explain what they are feeling and thinking and acknowledge those feelings.
  • Understand Emotions – Sometimes the emotions being expressed are more important than what is being said. Look for the feelings behind the words and sounds.
  • Laugh with them – Humor can lighten the mood so enjoy little moments with them. They have good days and bad days.
  • Be Visual – Gestures are often understood better than words. For example, don’t ask if they’re hungry. Rather, offer them a plate of food. Show them pictures of grandchildren instead of asking ‘Do you remember this child or that child?’
  • Be physical – It’s okay to hold their hand or give them a hug. But let them initiate the contact. They will come to you when they are ready.
  • Create a routine – A predictable routine can prevent a person with dementia from becoming distracted. Try to visit the same time every day/week and have your chat in the same location.

The situation can be stressful for you too, as a family member or a friend. Remember, however, that your loved one isn’t acting this way on purpose. Don’t take their words and actions personally. If you find that you don’t know what to do or say, that’s okay. Your presence and friendship are what’s most important to the person. Patience and understanding go a long way to help him or her feel safe and secure. Cherish the memories you had with them and create a journal of moments you enjoyed with them.

If you think it is too hard for you to take care of your family member, let us help you. We have trained and caring people who are inspired to care for seniors. Give us a call – 847-787-7572

Sources: Alz.org, Mayo Clinic, Bright Focus Foundation