The right way to communicate with an Alzheimer’s patient is very different than communicating with a non-impaired person. The first ingredient a caregiver needs is patience, lot’s of it. If you don’t have patience, you have no chance.
The need for patience is because they have trouble remembering things. They struggle to find words or forget what they want to say. Here are some examples of what you are confronting:
The person with Alzheimer’s may have problems with:
- Finding the right word or losing his or her train of thought when speaking
- Understanding what words mean
- Paying attention during long conversations
- Remembering the steps in common activities, such as cooking a meal, paying bills, or getting dressed
- Blocking out background noises from the radio, TV, or conversations
- Frustration if communication isn’t working
- Being very sensitive to touch and to the tone and loudness of voices
The Right Way: Tips To Better Communicate
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) provides several suggestions and tips that will empower caregivers to productively communicate with their Alzheimer’s patients. Here they are:
- Make eye contact and call the person by name.
- Use a gentle tone of voice.
- Encourage a two-way conversation for as long as possible.
- Use other methods besides speaking, such as gentle touching.
In addition, the NIA recommends several ways you can encourage the person to communicate with you:
- Show a warm, loving, matter-of-fact manner.
- Hold the person’s hand while you talk.
- Be open to the person’s concerns, even if he or she is hard to understand.
- Let him or her make some decisions and stay involved.
- Be patient with angry outbursts. Remember, it’s the illness “talking.”
Also remember, the most effective way to communicate effectively with a person who has Alzheimer’s, is — just keep it as simple as possible:
- Offer simple, step-by-step instructions.
- Repeat instructions and allow more time for a response. Try not to interrupt.
- Don’t talk about the person as if he or she isn’t there.
- Don’t talk to the person using “baby talk” or a “baby voice.”