What you can do to help
Despite the challenges, you can communicate effectively with someone who has Alzheimer's disease. Consider these tips:
- Be patient. Let your loved one know you're listening and trying to understand. Don't interrupt. Keep your voice gentle. Hold the person's hand while you talk. If you're frustrated, take a timeout for yourself.
- Show respect. Avoid baby talk and diminutive phrases, such as "good girl." Don't talk about your loved one as if he or she weren't there.
- Avoid distractions. Communication might be difficult — if not impossible — against a background of competing sights and sounds.
- Keep it simple. Use short sentences. As the disease progresses, ask questions that require a yes or no answer. Break down requests into single steps.
- Offer comfort. If a person with Alzheimer's is having trouble communicating, let him or her know it's OK. Encourage him or her to continue explaining what he or she is thinking.
- Use visual cues. Sometimes gestures or other visual cues promote better understanding than words alone. Rather than simply asking if someone who has Alzheimer's disease needs to use the toilet, for example, take him or her to the toilet and point to it.
- Avoid criticizing, correcting and arguing. Instead of correcting your loved one, try to find the meaning in what he or she is saying. To spare anger and agitation, try not to argue with him or her.
Communicating with someone with Alzheimer's disease can be challenging, especially as the disease progresses. Remember, however, that your loved one isn't acting this way on purpose. Don't take it personally. Use patience and understanding to help him or her feel safe and secure.
April 28, 2016
See more In-depth
- Communication and Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/care/dementia-communication-tips.asp. Accessed April 6, 2016.
- Caregiver guide. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/caring-person-alzheimers-disease. Accessed April 7, 2016.
- Voyer P. Communicating with people with dementia: Avoiding mistakes. Canadian Nurse. 2015;111:10.