Communicating with a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

After a short hiatus, we at the Aging Well Blog are back!

Just a quick post today.  George, our associate who also wears the hat of a speech-language pathologist, came across an excellent list of 10 tips for communicating with a person with Alzheimer’s disease (“AD”).  This comes from Relias Learning’s continuing education course entitled “Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: Interacting with Family Caregivers.”

Depending on how advanced a person’s AD is, trying to communicate with a person with the disease can be a challenge.  The conversation partner must not only endeavor to understand the person with AD but also to be understood by this person.

Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Make eye contact.
  2. Be at the person’s level.
  3. Tell the person what you are going to do before you do it.
  4. Speak calmly.
  5. Speak slowly; let the person set the pace of the conversation.
  6. Speak in short sentences with simple words.
  7. Only ask one question at a time – Never ask WHY.
  8. Avoid talking about the person as if he or she is not there.
  9. Turn negatives into positives.
  10. Do not argue with the person.

You want to help the person with AD feel calm and safe, as coping with the symptoms of AD, such as memory loss, is naturally fear-inducing.  Asking straightforward questions, one question at a time, and avoiding asking “Why” can decrease the linguistic complexity and resultant cognitive load on the person with AD.  Even if the person is saying things not rooted in reality, arguing with the person will usually not help the situation.  Try calmly validating the person with AD’s feelings and then redirecting the conversation.