Question

Caring For Someone Who Has Alzheimer's Disease

How should I communicate with my loved one who has Alzheimer's disease?

A Answers (3)

  • Here are some tips to enhance interactions with someone who has Alzheimer's disease:
    • Remember that the individual with dementia might be feeling confused, anxious, irritable, and depressed, and suffering from low self-esteem.
    • Speak clearly, slowly, and in a calm and friendly tone.
    • Be aware of body language. Individuals with dementia are often able to detect if a person’s body language depicts happiness, anger, or other emotions, and then mimic the cues they see. If a frustrated caregiver gives off a certain negative energy, the individual with the disease might respond with an equal amount of anger or impatience.
    • Use visual cues, pointing to things to show what you mean. Instead of saying, “Please brush your teeth,” pick up the toothbrush and demonstrate, for instance.
    • Make certain that the person with dementia has the best chance of seeing and hearing you. This involves checking that the person is wearing glasses and hearing aids, if necessary, and that talking occurs in a quiet environment.
    • Approach the individual from the front. An unexpected touch or drawing near from behind may upset the person.
    • Before asking the individual to do something, address the person by name to get his attention. While you are speaking, maintain eye contact to help him focus.
    • Ask only one question at a time and allow time for an answer. If he does not seem to understand, repeat the question using the same wording. If this does not work, after a few minutes, rephrase it.
    • Allow the individual adequate time to respond in conversation or when performing an activity. Rushing will increase confusion.
    • If the individual repeatedly asks a question, keep in mind that he cannot remember the response you have just given him. Instead of answering the question after a second or third repetition, reassure him.
    • Eliminate distractions, such as the TV or radio.
    • Avoid statements that sound negative. For example, instead of "Don't go outside," say, "Stay inside."
    • Use humor whenever possible, though not at the individual's expense.
    • Break down all tasks into simple steps. Giving too many directions at once or too quickly will increase confusion. If the individual gets upset and becomes uncooperative, stop and try again later.
    • Keep on talking, even when a person may no longer be verbal. Chat about things that mattered to the person and mention names of family and friends. Even one-sided communication can show that you care.
  • ASamuel E. Gandy, MD, Geriatrics, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System

    Patience is the key to communicating with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with Alzheimer’s often ask the same question over and over. One of the best ways to communicate is to reminisce about the past so that your loved one can rely on his or her intact long term memories.

  • AJohn Growdon, MD, Neurology, answered
    To communicate with someone with Alzheimer's disease:
    • Use simple phrasing and short sentences, but be careful to avoid talking to the person as if he or she were a child.
    • To get the person's attention, begin by using his or her name.
    • Be patient. Give someone with Alzheimer's time to complete a sentence or thought, and try not to interrupt.
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