Communication typically becomes progressively more difficult for people who suffer with Alzheimer’s disease. If you are caring for elderly parents who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you may notice that they struggle to find the right words as they try to express themselves, ask questions, or answer them.
They may also have difficulty understanding what you say to them or be unable to follow conversations very well, particularly when several people are involved in those conversations. If these and other communication issues have become a problem for your loved one, here are 6 tips on communicating with Alzheimer's patients that can help make things easier and less frustrating for both of you.
1. Minimize distraction
People with Alzheimer’s disease often have a hard time communicating when there are lots of noises, sights or people around to compete for their attention. Try to have discussions in a quiet, calm area.
2. Establish one-on-one attention
Make sure you have your loved one’s attention by establishing and maintaining eye contact as you speak to them. Calling them by name as you begin speaking can also help ensure you have their attention, as can smiling, holding their hand or touching them on the shoulder or arm for emphasis as you speak.
3. Speak slowly, clearly and simply
People with Alzheimer’s disease often need a little more time to understand and process what they are hearing as they are spoken to. For this reason, communication between you and your loved one will likely be easier if you are careful not to speak too fast. Speaking clearly is important as well, as is using short, simple sentences and familiar words and phrases.
4. Be a patient listener
Maintain eye contact while your loved one is speaking and be patient if they are struggling to find the words to express themselves or to answer questions appropriately. Offer reassurance and encouragement to help them relax, since being anxious or frustrated can make communication even more of a struggle.
5. Ask yes or no questions
Rather than asking open-ended questions, such as “what would you like to drink?”, offer simpler, yes or no questions instead, like “would you like a cup of tea?”
6. Be respectful
One of the most important tips on communicating with Alzheimer’s patients is to be careful not to talk down to them as if they were children. Also, never speak to others as if your loved one is not there or cannot understand what is going on around them.
Other helpful tips on communicating with Alzheimer’s patients include keeping a positive demeanor as you interact with them. Try not to criticize or correct your loved one as they struggle to make themselves clear, be aware of your body language as you interact and take a break if you begin to feel frustrated or tense. Finally, using gestures can help with comprehension, such as demonstrating a task or pointing at objects that you would like them to use.