It requires special techniques, patience, and sensitivity to successfully communicate with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Here are a few suggestions that can help you communicate more effectively.
* Pay extra attention to your facial expression and body language, since these become extra important when talking to persons with neurological problems. If they feel threatened, undermined or confused by you, they may react negatively, become increasingly agitated, lose confidence or feel increasingly isolated.
* Identify yourself and address the person by name. This helps someone with Alzheimer’s to orientate. Make sure you have the person’s attention before beginning to speak.
* Do not get angry even if you begin to get frustrated. Avoid speaking loudly or treating them like a child.
* Use simple, direct statements and information, with words the person can understand. Do not give more than one instruction at a time. Identify people and things by name, rather than using general pronouns like “they” or “that.”
* Be positive. Instead of saying, “Don’t do that,” say, “Let’s try this.”
* Ask “yes” or “no” questions if that aids conversation and understanding.
* Ask them to repeat something if you do not understand them.
* Be patient. Encourage the person to continue to express his or her thoughts, even if he or she is having difficulty. Be careful not to interrupt. Avoid arguing. Do not press for an answer if that worries or causes confusion.
* Try again later if your conversation has not been successful. Sometimes conversing with someone with Alzheimer’s is not necessarily about understanding; it is about showing care, concern, inclusion and love towards them.
As Alzheimer’s progresses, it diminishes a person’s ability to
communicate with others and makes it difficult for caregivers to
fully understand a loved ones needs. Alzheimer’s patients not only
have a difficult time speaking and expressing their thoughts,
feelings and emotions, but also have trouble understanding others
and tend to confuse words and general conversation. Learning to
communicate with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s is essential
because it helps to understand their daily needs.
There are several changes that take place in the communication of a
person with Alzheimer’s and you may notice that your loved one has
difficulty finding the right words, uses words they’re familiar
with over and over and invents words that don’t exist to describe
familiar objects. They may easily lose their train of thought,
have difficulty organizing words in a sentence and begin speaking
in their native language.
When they sense they’re not properly communicating, people with
Alzheimer’s tend to become agitated and use curse words and stop
speaking all together. Instead of relying on their words, they
might begin using gestures and pointing to convey their message.
Though the process can be frustrating, for both the Alzheimer’s
patient and caregiver, it’s important to familiarize with your
loved ones gestures and invented words so they’re able to
communicate more efficiently.
Make sure your loved one always knows that you’re listening and
trying to understand what they’re saying. Be patient and make eye
contact, allowing them to finish what they’re trying to say without
prodding, corrections or criticism. If your loved one is having
difficulty finding the right word, help them by guessing which word
they’re referring to and if you cannot guess, ask them to make a
gesture or point to something that relates to what they’re trying
Patience is the key to communicating with a loved one suffering
from Alzheimer’s and if you focus on their feelings, rather than
the facts, you may have a deeper understanding of what they’re
really trying to say. Talking slowly, using short sentences and
repeating information can help them to process information easier
with less confusion and frustration.
The 10 Absolutes
Never ARGUE, instead AGREE
Never REASON, instead DIVERT
Never SHAME, instead DISTRACT
Never LECTURE, instead REASSURE
Never say REMEMBER, instead REMINISCE
Never say I TOLD YOU, instead REPEAT
Never say YOU CAN’T, instead say DO WHAT YOU CAN
Never COMMAND, or DEMAND, instead ASK or MODEL
Never CONDESCEND, instead ENCOURAGE and PRAISE
Never FORCE, instead REINFORCE
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