How to Communicate Better With Someone Who Has Early-Stage Alzheimer's
Keep these simple techniques in mind when talking to someone with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.
It's so easy to become frustrated when talking to someone with dementia or Alzheimer's. It's hard to know the "right" way to respond to the repetitive or odd things he sometimes says. You won't be tongue-tied if you keep these simple communication techniques in mind.
How to start a conversation
When you want to start a conversation or ask a question, get the person's attention in an obvious, direct way. Start by approaching him from the front and saying his name. This will help him focus on you and prevent catching him by surprise, which may set him on edge and make him less able to concentrate on the conversation. Someone who's older may be somewhat deaf, and this direct approach also makes it easier for him to hear you.
Slow down your usual speaking style a bit. Enunciate your words to be as clear as possible. Also stay conscious of giving the person plenty of time to think about what you've said and to reply. Many people have a tendency to rush in and fill a silence with more words, which often only serves to agitate someone with Alzheimer's or other dementias.
Another way you might need to alter your usual conversational style is to stick to common, plain words and short sentences whenever possible. (It's like talking to a young child, though without using singsong baby talk.) Try to construct sentences that include only one main thought, ask only one question at a time, and give instructions one step at a time.
If the person doesn't understand something you've said, repeat it exactly the way you said it the first time; that will give him more opportunities to figure it out. If you've asked a question that's not connecting, ask it again the same way. Do this within reason, of course -- if two or three repetitions fail, try rewording the message in different, simpler terms.