10 Tips for Communicating with Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease directly affects parts of the brain responsible for communication. Patients find it harder to both understand others and explain themselves. Patients also begin to forget the names of once familiar objects such as watches or pens. Early in the disease, people with Alzheimer’s are often able to hide these problems quite well. In later stages, it is difficult to have a normal conversation. BY keeping a few tips in mind, it is possible with Alzheimer’s and avoid much frustration.

  1. Be aware of what your body and face are saying. Smile as much as possible. Use slow hand gestures, keep your body relaxed. Try to make normal eye contact.
  2. Be aware of your tone of voice: Avoid yelling, but also be aware that you may be talking to someone with a hearing loss.
  3. Speak slowly and clearly: Alzheimer’s disease makes it harder to understand many words. Speaking fast may mean the person you are talking to does not hear all of what you are saying.
  4. Try not to win arguments: Avoid reasoning or trying to convince them. Often they don’t understand the argument. They can become frustrated by not understanding, or because they are talking to someone who is frustrated.
  5. Limit choices to only a few: Ask questions that can be answered by yes or no. Avoid giving lists or forms to fill out.
  6. Avoid conversations in crowded or loud places: Someone with Alzheimer’s disease is easily startled. It is harder to focus on one conversation when many others are going on. It is also hard to concentrate when always being startled.
  7. Acknowledge what is said: Repeat back key points and work to let the individual with Alzheimer’s know you heard them.
  8. Agree as often as possible. Stay calm and soothing, agree often with what they are saying, and tell them you understand. Avoid using the word “no”, arguing and confronting.
  9. Know first languages: Alzheimer’s disease can lead to forgetting second languages. A language spoken since birth can also be comforting when heard.
  10. Rephrase words that are upsetting: Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may not recognize or understand words you use. Try to find simpler and more comforting terms if those you are using are upsetting. For example “day care” often becomes “going to work” or “the (insert a name here) Club”.
2017 © The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation