While some Alzheimer’s patients are more lucid than others, communicating with anyone with Alzheimer’s requires a certain amount of knowledge, patience, and acceptance. By knowing certain tricks and tips that make this communication easier on both parties, you can learn how to successfully communicate with an Alzheimer’s patient. Read the following five tips for help initiating and maintaining beneficial conversations with a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease.
Tip #1: Get rid of distractions
When conversing with someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease, distractions we rarely notice in our day-to-day lives can become an unmanageable distraction for them. Things like noise from televisions, radios, and outside conversations can cause them to trail off and lose the ability to effectively converse with you. Finding a quiet, secluded place for the two of you to talk will make it easier for them to focus and stay engaged in the conversation.
Tip #2: Keep it simple
When speaking to an Alzheimer’s patient, try to keep the words you use short and simple, and keep your conversation going in one direction. Refer to objects and people as their noun or name instead of using “it” or “they”. This can help eliminate confusion for your loved one. In your conversation, also avoid asking open-ended questions like, “What would you like to eat today?” Instead, use specifics like, “Would you like to eat Mexican food?”
Tip #3: Remember body language
What we say is just as important as how we say it. Body language can add an extra dimension to a conversation with an Alzheimer’s patient as it can help clear up confusion caused by words they may not understand. Try to point to physical objects as much as you can when referencing them in conversation. Similarly, keep an eye out for their body language. For Alzheimer’s patients whose verbal communication is impaired, their body language will help you read how they are feeling and understand what they are trying to say.
Tip #4: Avoid arguments
We understand that patience can easily wear thin when trying to communicate with someone with Alzheimer’s. While it can get frustrating, avoid arguing with them or creating any conflict. The two of you will only become more agitated and pointed comments like, “I just told you that” will frustrate them further. Instead, remain patient and give them time to work through the conversation. Similarly, let them finish their own sentences or be prepared to ask a question that will help jog their memory. It can be tempting to finish their sentences when they are struggling to find the right words to say, but letting them struggle can help improve their memory.
Tip #5: Accept reality therapy
If you are unfamiliar with this approach, it is known as “reality therapy” because the person interacting with an Alzheimer’s patient chooses to live in their reality and play along with whatever situation they believe they are in. Depending on the stage of Alzheimer’s the patient is in, the situation could involve a deceased family member they believe is still alive or the belief that they are living in a different era of their life. As long as the situation is not harmful to you, the Alzheimer’s patient, or anyone else, it can help to play along with their reality and support the situation they believe they are in.
While not every conversation held with an Alzheimer’s patient will run smoothly or simply, following these 5 tricks will help ease potential confusion for the patient and provide more of an opportunity to have a genuine, productive conversation. For more advice on living and communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related diseases, visit our blog here. And for help taking care of your aging loved, give us a call today to discover more about the exceptional caregiving services we provide!