As Alzheimer’s or related dementia progresses, communication can become more and more challenging. However, no matter how difficult it may become, ongoing communication is very important. Your family member does benefit from communication even when they may not respond to you as would like them to. It is especially important when communicating with a person with dementia that you choose your words and approach very carefully.
Identify yourself – Be sure the person can see you as you begin speaking and always tell them who you are. Use their name – This not only helps you get their attention but it also gives the person the opportunity to orient themselves to your communication.
Keep it short and simple – Use short and simple words, try not to use long lengthy sentences.
Talk slowly and clearly – Be aware of speaking clearly and directly to the person, try not to continue talking as you are walking away from them.
Give instructions one-step at a time – try to break down instructions or tasks into clear simple steps. Instead of saying “bring your coat over here and put it on the chair” try one step at a time, “bring your coat over here” and then when they have accomplished that you can add “put it on the chair”.
Ask one question at a time – don’t overwhelm them with a long string of questions.
Be patient while waiting for a response – be encouraging but patient while you wait for an answer, repeat the question using the same words a second time if needed.
Turn questions into answers – Try to sense the needs of an unasked question and provide the answer as a solution to their confusion, instead of asking if they need to use the restroom try saying where the restroom is.
Aviod confusing expressions – Remember that a person with Alzheimer’s is likely to take what you say very literally so be careful not to say “Take a seat” when you mean “sit down here”.
Avoid vague expressions – Remember to say “here is your coat” not “here it is”.
Put emphasis on key words – Stress the words in the sentence which are most important and you want to draw attention to.
Turn negatives into positives – Remember to say things like “Let’s go this way” and not “Don’t go that way”.
Use visual aids – Touch or point to an item you want the person to use or even begin the task for them.
Don’t quiz – Instead of asking if they remember a person or an event mention the person’s name or event that you are referring to.
Use simple explanations – Avoid using logic and reason but do give complete and clear responses.
Use written notes – If the person is able to read and and understand them, sometimes written notes are easier for them to follow then verbal instructions.
Be respectful – Don’t talk about the person as if they were not there, and don’t ever talk down to them.
Keep a check on your tone of voice – Remember that your voice can convey and frustration and stress you may be feeling even without your knowing it. Try to always speak in an easy, non-demanding tone of voice.
Watch out for your body language – Always approach the person from the front, avoid sudden or jerky movements, use eye contact, use friendly facial expressions.