How to Communicate with Someone who Has Alzheimer’s

How to communicate with someone who has Alzheimer's/ Dementia

How can you effectively communicate with someone who has Alzheimer’s?

Effective Alzheimer’s Communication

Communication may be one of the greatest hindrances to the relationship between a caregiver and their loved one.  However, communicating does not have to be debilitating.  Below are some easy ideas for you to implement, with the knowledge that every person is different.  The tips that work for one caregiver may not work for another.  However, the following ideas have been tested for many years and seem to work well in many cases.

(Note- If you are curious as to the difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia, please read our earlier post about the distinction.)

Communication techniques:

Here are 15 simple tips to communicate more effectively.  Please use the comment section to let us know which techniques work best for you.

  • Do not take their inability to understand you personally.  They are not intentionally trying to make life difficult for you.
  • Speak clearlyEnunciate in a matter-of-fact manner.
  • Do not interruptInterruptions may prolong his/ her ability to process and respond.
  • Stay calm.  Even when you are frustrated, keep your voice low and gentle.  Your voice tone and nonverbal cues send a clearer message than what you actually say.
  • Use visual cues.  Gestures or other visual cues can promote better understanding.  For example, rather than simply asking if the person needs a glass of water, take him/ her a glass of water.
  • Introduce yourself.  Even if you are the person’s child or spouse, if they are at the point where they do not recognize you, introduce yourself when you enter a room.
  • Avoid distractions.  Lower the television, or radio, volume.   Do not multi-task when speaking with the person.  Avoid as many background sights and sounds as possible.
  • Use eye contact.  Face the person and look them in the eye when speaking.  Do not talk with the individual if your back is turned, if you are simultaneously on your phone, or you are doing another task.
  • Avoid arguing.  Simply change the subject or redirect the person.  Additionally, do not criticize, hurry, or correct.
  • Practice patience and understanding.  This may be the most challenging part of your task as a caregiver.  Strive each day to maintain more composure and patience than the day before.
  • Keep it simpleUse short sentences and plain words.  Strive to ask questions that simply require a yes-no answer.  Only ask one question at a time.
  • Be respectful.  Do not assume that your loved one does not understand you.  Avoid speaking down to the person.  Also, do not talk about the individual as if he/ she were not there.
  • Stay nearby.  Come as close to the person, as possible, when speaking to him/ her.  Do not try talking from the other side of the room.
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed, seek out respite care for your loved one.  Many facilities offer daytime respite so you can have the day free to rest and unwind.  Some centers offer overnight and weekend respite for the especially weary caregiver.
  • Attend a support group.  Gathering with others, who are going through the same challenges as you, will help you bounce ideas off them and learn new coping techniques.  Communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s can be challenging, but it does not have to completely derail your life.

She has been in your shoes:

This blog has two different posts about useful items that you may find helpful in your caregiving efforts.  Please click here or here to read those.  One suggestion I made on both those posts was to learn from someone who has been in your shoes.

Many caregivers cannot leave their home to attend a support group.  Gleaning helpful information, from the book of someone who has been in your shoes, is priceless.  Whether you can attend a support group or not, look online for any books written by Rebecca Collins.

Rebecca understands caregiving from a personal perspective.  She cared for her mother until her mother passed away.  I know you will smile when you read the title of her first book- “Diary of a Mad Caregiver”.  The name alone lets you know that you are not the only one who has various caregiving emotions.

Not only is Rebecca’s original book title priceless, it is also proven.  She has sold many copies in the US, and she is surpassing her expectations in Japan as well.

What about you?

Which techniques do you suggest?  Please leave us a comment letting us know what works best for you.  If you are enjoying these post, you can get them delivered to your inbox.  To subscribe to our email list click under the “newsletter” heading.

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4 thoughts on “How to Communicate with Someone who Has Alzheimer’s”

  1. Thanks for these wonderful tips. I wish I had of known some of these before my mother passed away. It hurts when you go in to see them and they don’t know who you are, but if you keep talking to them and holding their hand (touch is a great communication tool), they soon recognize you, in most cases. Thanks once again for this wonderful blog. Caregivers are so blessed to have you to do all this research and share it with so, so many. Keep up the great job.

    1. Thank you for the your words of wisdom and heartfelt comment! You have jogged my memory or something that my grandmother loved, even in her last couple of days when she could not talk much. I would flip through the newspaper advertisements with her and point to things that she would normally buy. She loved seeing the items on sale. We would actually look through the same circular many times and it was new to her every time.

  2. Thank you so much for these 15 helpful hints and reminders!! Many of them are also true if you have a parent or love one who is hard of hearing. Thank you again for all your insight.

  3. Lisa, that is an excellent point! We went through that with my grandmother, but I neglected to add any posts about that here. I am so glad you mentioned the hearing-impaired! Thank you for the reminder about this precious group of loving people. They want to feel valued and included too.

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