– Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC Monday, April 27th, 2009
It requires special techniques, patience and sensitivity to successfully communicate with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Here are a few suggestions that can help you communicate more effectively.
Pay extra attention to your facial expression and body language, since these become extra important when talking to persons with neurological problems. If they feel threatened, undermined or confused by you, they may react negatively, become increasingly agitated, lose confidence or feel increasingly isolated.
Identify yourself and address the person by name. This helps someone with Alzheimer’s to orientate. Make sure you have the person’s attention before beginning to speak.
Do not get angry even if you begin to get frustrated. Avoid speaking loudly or treating them like a child.
Use simple, direct statements and information, with words the person can understand. Do not give more than one instruction at a time. Identify people and things by name, rather than using general pronouns like “they” or “that.”
Be positive. Instead of saying, “Don’t do that,” say, “Let’s try this.”
Ask “yes” or “no” questions if that aids conversation and understanding
Ask them to repeat something if you do not understand them
Be patient. Encourage the person to continue to express his or her thoughts, even if he or she is having difficulty. Be careful not to interrupt. Avoid arguing. Do not press for an answer if that worries or causes confusion.
Try again later if your conversation has not been successful. Sometimes conversing with someone with Alzheimer’s is not necessarily about understanding; it is about showing care, concern, inclusion and love towards them.
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