Communicating with Alzheimer’s Disease – 8 Helpful Tips

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posted by Ted Ryan on November 18, 2013

In our second post of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month we’re covering one of the biggest challenges of the disease – communication. As the brain function of someone with Alzheimer’s begins to decline, so does their ability to communicate.

To effectively communicate with a person with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to realize that these individuals experience life “in the moment.”

The ultimate rule of communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s disease is keep it simple. For instance, “Let’s take a walk” is less confusing than “Isn’t it a nice day to take a walk and hear the birds chirping?”

Other tips for effective communication include:

  • Use neutral tones that are gentle and relaxed – a person with Alzheimer’s can react to your emotions so be careful to not be in a hurry, frown or speak quickly or angrily
  • Approach the person from the front, establish eye contact and use their name
  • Speak slowly, clearly and at a volume appropriate to the listener
  • Reduce surrounding distractions
  • Break tasks and instructions into clear, simple steps
  • Ask one question at a time and listen to the response
  • Act out the message, such as pointing to the object you are talking about
  • Make nonverbal messages match your words – smile when greeting someone, wave when you say goodbye

Naturally, the effectiveness of these techniques will vary among different individuals and the stages of dementia they’re in. If you have further questions, please contact us. Our experienced staff includes four Certified Dementia Practitioners who would love to help.

And if you have a tip that we’ve left out, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear it!

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Alzheimer's and Dementia
  1. Mary K. Erbs

    Mary K. Erbs

    November 19, 2013

    I can not expression the importance of your point on keeping our language SIMPLE. The fewer words the better. All too often I have found individuals speak to me in a loud and demanding tone. Their choice of words can be degrading, insulting, and rude. Take a deep breath, tighten your muscles and then relax them, and count backwards from 10 to 1. The caregiver MUST not take derogatory statements personally. They need to continue communicating in a soft gentle voice.

  2. Ted Ryan

    Ted Ryan

    November 19, 2013

    You’re right. As you know, being a caregiver can be challenging but you have the right approach. Thanks for commenting! @Mary K. Erbs:

  3. Caryl Anne

    Caryl Anne

    April 15, 2014

    These are great tips. You are completely right when comes to approaching the situation at hand. It must be relaxed and gentle for it to be effective. Thanks for sharing!

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