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7 Tips for Communicating with Someone Battling Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease slowly wears away one’s ability to function while engaging in routine activities. While some early indicators of the disease may disguise themselves, troubles with language and expression are unmistaken and noticeable. It becomes progressively more challenging for people with Alzheimer’s to convey how they feel as the disease runs its course. Additionally, each individual will experience symptoms differently. Every day presents new challenges for someone battling Alzheimer’s; therefore, family, friends, and caregivers should seek modes of communication that match their loved one’s capabilities. Here are 7 universal tips that will help enhance communication and understanding. 

Couple talking with cups

 

1. Step back

When conversing, let your loved one take the lead. Oftentimes, they will struggle to find a specific word or repeat a question more than once. The best thing you can do is to provide the space for them to generate that final piece of information. Remain relaxed and patient because your loved one is also feeling pressure during the conversation. Instead of giving an answer, ask if they would like some help or just more time. 


2. Limit disruptions  

A room with the radio on and other people talking is not a great place to hold a conversation with someone who has Alzheimer’s. Find a place with little noise and not a lot of background activity; a quieter setting can help your loved one focus and better understand you. Another important factor to keep in mind is the way you converse. Try to keep your sentences straightforward and match their word choice.

3. Self-expression

Without even realizing it, it’s very easy to speak on behalf of someone with Alzheimer’s. Give them space and time to express themselves and might just need a nudge to get there. Assume they understand what you’re saying and address them as you would anyone else.

 

 

Try to keep your sentences straightforward and match their word choice.

 

4. Body language 

Implications and intentions can get lost in translation during a conversation, especially when you are attempting to connect with someone who has Alzheimer’s. Body language now becomes essential to conversation and can clearly relay your message. For example, eye contact shows your loved one that you are listening to them. 

5. All 5 senses 

People with Alzheimer’s might have a harder time understanding you through just words.  

Incorporating additional senses into interactions with your loved one can help them feel comforted. Take their hand in yours while you ask a question or decorate their space with scented candles. These small, but powerful acts will create memories and a deeper connection. 

6. Avoid arguing 

Practice letting someone with Alzheimer’s finish his or her thoughts, regardless of whether there is truth to what is being said. Contradicting their account of the situation will result in unnecessary stress for both parties. Responding in a way that demonstrates empathy provides reassurance. You can also employ a tactic that will stop a disagreement from happening. If your loved one has made it clear they do not enjoy taking medicine, allow them to engage in a fun activity beforehand that will lighten your loved one’s mood. This can be playing a game, listening to a favorite song, or spending time outside. 

7. Respect

While individuals with Alzheimer’s experience daily challenges, they deserve the same amount of respect as anyone else would demand. Acknowledge your loved one as an adult and not a child or a burden because their abilities have diminished. Your approach to them should support and encourage their dignity. 

 

Written by, Terry Moore on Jul. 29, 2020
Terry Moore

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