Tips for Communicating with people who have Alzheimer’s disease


See the Alzheimer’s Association for more:     


People with Alzheimer’s disease often find it difficult to express themselves and understand others. They may:

·         Have difficulty finding the right words

·         Use familiar words repeatedly

·         Invent new words to describe familiar objects

·         Frequently lose their train of thought

·         Experience difficulty organizing words logically

·         Revert to speaking in a native language

·         Curse or use offensive words

·         Speak less often

·         Rely on nonverbal gestures


Tips for enhancing communication

·         Show that you are listening and trying to understand what is being said

·         Maintain eye contact

·         Encourage the person to continue to express thoughts even if he or she is having difficulty

·         Be careful not to interrupt

·         Avoid criticizing, correcting, and arguing

·         Be calm and supportive

·         Use a gentle, relaxed tone of voice

·         Use positive, friendly facial expressions

·         Always approach the person from the front, identify yourself, and address him or her by name

·         Speak slowly and clearly

·         Use short, simple, and familiar words

·         Break tasks and instructions into clear, simple steps

·         Ask one question at a time

·         Allow enough time for a response

·         Avoid using pronouns and identify people by their names

·         Avoid using negative statements and quizzing (e.g., “You know who that is, don’t you?”)

·         Use nonverbal communication such as pointing and touching

·         Offer assistance as needed

·         Don’t talk about the person as if he or she wasn’t there

·         Have patience, flexibility, and understanding


Strengthening the bond with people with Alzheimer’s

(from the Harvard Health Letter)

·         Don’t raise your voice.  Speak calmly and evenly in a friendly tone.

·         Speak directly to the person, even if communication is difficult.  One complaint of people in the early stages of the disease is that doctors talk to family members instead of directly with them.

·         Use common, simple words.  However, don’t overuse pronouns (“he”, “she” and “we”), which may be confusing.

·         Ask leading, rather than open-ended questions.  Ask “Would you like a cup of coffee?” rather than “What would you like to drink?”

·         Make eye contact, touch the person, be aware of body language.  Nonverbal cues become more important as the disease destroys the brain’s language center.  That’s why talking on the telephone may be difficult.

·         Express positive emotions directly.  Tell the person, “I really enjoyed spending this time with you.”

·         Frame questions to help the person make decisions with little or no anxiety.  When you ask, “Would you like to wear the green or blue shirt?” the last word heard is “shirt” and you may not get an answer.  Instead, ask “Would you like to wear the green shirt or the blue?” to get an answer.




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© 2005-2007 by Chris Jamison                                                                                                               This page last updated 8/15/2007 at 9:43 PM

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