beyond the video

Communicating with Those Who Have Alzheimer's Disease

Tactics and strategies for successfully communicating with somebody who has Alzheimers.

Video summary
The brief excerpts from this Australian video acknowledge that as the dementia of their loved ones progresses, communication challenges for caregivers increase.

Here is a summary of the advice offered:

  • No two people are the same. Each person has special needs and wants, and each will respond to you in his or her own way.
  • Reasoning does not work with people who have advanced dementia because they aren't living in our reality. We must understand their reality.
  • People with dementia will sometimes "confabulate" - make up explanations for what they don't understand - but there is often at least partial truth in those explanations.
  • People for whom English is a second language will frequently revert to the language of their birth as their dementia progresses.
  • Also as their dementia advances, people frequently have greater difficulty in expressing their needs or carrying on a conversation. Try to read their messages in their location (i.e., hanging out in the kitchen may be a sign of hunger), their tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.
  • Listen with your ears and eyes and your own body language; show interest in what the person is trying to express.
  • Be especially attuned to feelings. Holding a person's hand or giving him a hug is usually comforting and calming.
  • Call the person by name and re-introduce yourself as often as necessary.
  • Make sure you can be seen and heard, but don't shout. Speak gently and clearly. Stand, sit or kneel so you have contact at eye level.
  • Ask one question at a time, and don't ask too many. A statement is often better than a question.
  • Keep your sentences short, simple and specific. Complex messages will only confuse. Break the message into parts and it will be more easily understood.
  • Back up your words with gestures, demonstrations and facial expressions.
  • Offer choices, but keep them simple.
  • Praise often and sincerely for attempts as well as accomplishments.
  • People with dementia may forget your name, but they will always respond to the satisfying relationship they have with you.

Applying this video to your situation

  • Think about any new insights provided and what you will do differently.
  • Think about any communication challenges you have faced with your loved one. What techniques have you tried that worked well? What didn't work? For example, have you tried reasoning when you needed to pay attention to your loved one's feelings?

Adapted from: Dementia With Dignity; Eastway Communication & Media One Pty, Sydney, Australia

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Beyond the Video

Make sure you can be seen and heard, but don't shout. Speak gently and clearly. Stand, sit or kneel so you have contact at eye level.