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Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Communication

10 Tips for Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Communication

When caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’sdisease or dementia, communication in an effective manner can be very challenging. One of my favorite books on the subject is Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s.

To make things easier we have compiled this list of tips to help eliminate some of the hurdles and reduce stressful situations.

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10 Tips for Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Communication

  1. Always approach from the front
  2. Be patient; Speak slowly, clearly, calmly
  3. Offer simple, step by step instructions
  4. Repeat, allow time for response
  5. Provide reassurance, you are safe here, I am with you
  6. Agree, validate, don’t argue
  7. Keep it simple; ask questions that require a yes or no response or give choices i.e. Would you like pasta or chicken for dinner?
  8. Tr the calming effect of touch i.e. Hold hands while you talk
  9. Try different forms of communication, like writing notes or pictures. You can also try using cue cards.
  10. DO NOT ask them questions like “don’t you remember?” Questions like this can be very frustrating for your loved one.

Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Communication

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias cause problems with short-term memory. This can lead to the person with dementia repeating themselves, or asking the same question over and over again. 

Your loved one isn’t doing it on purpose, they truly have no memory of asking you the first or fiftieth time. But even though it is unintentional, it can be annoying to some caregivers. 

That’s why it’s important to understand the underlying reasons for it. Then you can use techniques that can help ease the line of questioning before you reach your limit.

People with dementia often exhibit repetitive behaviors when something is bothering them, they are fearful or anxious. They are often confused so they ask questions to help reassure or orient themselves. An orientation clock can be very helpful.

It is easiest to keep your answers simple and consistent.  This will prevent confusion and alleviate some of your loved one’s anxiety. When your answer is too complex, it can make them more confused and fearful. Remaining clear and concise will be beneficial for both of you. They may not know why they are where they are or what is coming next and that gives them anxiety. Pacing is also something frequently observed in persons with dementia.

When your loved one starts repetitive behaviors, first try to rule out things that might be giving them anxiety. Calmly respond to their repetitive question, but then perhaps consider changing the setting will be helpful, or reducing stimuli like television, or offering a snack to see if they are hungry or a sweater to see if they are cold.

In some cases introducing something calming like soft music or a simple activity can be helpful. This is known as re-direction. For example if your loved one keeps asking if it is dinner time, but you just had lunch and you know they aren’t hungry, suggest he or she folds laundry or sorts some magazines with you.

Always remember when you are having a challenging day communicating with your loved one, it is only one day. If your technique isn’t working, don’t give up trying. It could be any number of factors that were contributing.

Perhaps today your approach didn’t work, but tomorrow you have a fresh start. Lastly, don’t be afraid to laugh—humor can lighten the mood and reduce stress

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