Communicating With Loved Ones Who Have Alzheimer’s

When a loved one is diagnosed with a severe life altering disease such as Alzheimer’s or dementia it is indescribably painful. Knowing that you will have to witness the deterioration of a loved one’s mental state. However, learning how to communicate with your loved one as their disease advances is important and rewarding. Here are some communication tips from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Don’t Say Remember Frequently your loved one will be unable to remember various life events or people. By pointing out their inability to do so you will frustrate them. Instead of saying remember speak in statements that will help them remember. For example, say “This is your John, your grandson” not “Do you remember John”. Also when reminiscing about life events show them pictures to jog their memory.

Don’t Argue with Them Instead the best technique is to redirect or validate their feelings rather than to argue. Doing so will let them know they are not alone. For example, “I understand that you want to go home. Could you tell my more about your home?” Then offer to take them on a walk.  

Telling them about a deceased loved one Frequently our loved ones with Alzheimer’s will ask or make a comment about a deceased family member or friend. In these situations you are uncertain whether or not you should tell them the unfortunate news. The best approach is to ask them what their favorite memories are with that person. By doing so you will redirect them into another thought, allowing them to relive their happiest memories rather than flooding them with confusion and pain.

Speak Calmly and Slowly Your loved one with Alzheimer’s will mirror your emotions and they need time to process what you are saying. Speak at half your normal speed and take a breath between each thought. By doing so you will foster a better conversation and will maintain their attention.

Talk About One Topic at a Time In order to avoid your loved one’s confusion and frustration speak to them about a single topic at a time. Also do not feel bad when you have to remind them what you are talking about or repeating yourself. Additionally, in order to maintain their concentration choose a setting that won’t be distracting or noisy. This will allow for a more fluent conversation.