Alzheimer's: Tips for effective communication

Alzheimer's disease presents many challenges, and communication is a big one. Try these tips to ease frustration and improve communication. By Mayo Clinic Staff

When you try to communicate with a loved one living with Alzheimer's disease, you may feel like you've dropped through the rabbit hole into Alice's wonderland.

Because Alzheimer's disease slowly erodes verbal communication skills, your loved one's words and expressions may make little or no sense to you. In turn, your loved one may have trouble deciphering your words. The resulting misunderstandings can fray tempers all around, making communication even more difficult. Here's help easing the frustration.

What to expect

Alzheimer's damages pathways in the brain, which makes it difficult to find the right words and to understand what others are saying. Your loved one may incorrectly substitute one word for another or invent an entirely new word to describe a familiar object. He or she may get stuck in a groove — like a skipping record — and repeat the same word or question over and over.

A person living with Alzheimer's may also:

  • Lose his or her train of thought
  • Struggle to organize words logically
  • Need more time to understand what you're saying
  • Curse or use offensive language
Jun. 04, 2013 See more In-depth