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Alzheimer’s Communication: How to Talk to Loved Ones Struggling With Memory Loss

alzheimer's communication

5.7 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s. The majority of them are over the age of 65.

If a family member or close friend has Alzheimer’s, it can be difficult to communicate with them. But there are a few things you can do to make your time with them a little bit easier on your both.

In this article, we’ll go over some Alzheimer’s communication tips that can help your time with your loved one remain comfortable and special.

Read on for our top tips.

Be Patient

Being patient with someone who has Alzheimer’s can sometimes be difficult.

For instance, they may repeat themselves or say that they need something several times that they don’t. This can manifest in situations such as stating that they’ve lost their glasses, which are around their neck, several times in a row. Or, they may tell you they need to use the bathroom when they have a catheter inserted or you know they’ve just used the bathroom.

It can be easy to become frustrated in these situations. Instead, simply acknowledge what they’re asking for and move the conversation forward.

Even if you end up having a circular conversation in which the person says the same things over and over again, they still appreciate that you’re there.

Don’t Talk Down to Them

While the individual may not be the same person they once were, they’re also not children. As such, don’t talk down to them or use words meant for children. For example, don’t ask them if they need to “wee wee” if they need to use the bathroom.

Instead, talk to them with the same dignity and respect that you would speak to an adult. Keep your tone even, even if you must repeat yourself.

Use Names, Not Pronouns

Try and mitigate your usage of pronouns, and instead use people’s names. If they have someone that comes in to help them named Jennifer, refer to her as Jennifer, not as “the girl” or “her.” This helps keep things as straight as possible.

However, be aware that there will be times when they don’t know who you’re talking about, even if they are people they’ve known for most of their lives.

Take Your Time

When speaking to someone with Alzheimer’s, you shouldn’t be in a rush or let them know that you have a time limit. Instead, sit with them as long as you’re able and allow them to communicate as best they can. Some tasks will take longer now that they have Alzheimer’s, and you want them to know that’s okay.

Minimize Distractions

Don’t let the TV or radio blare as you try to have a conversation with someone with Alzheimer’s. This can cause even more confusion and can make it difficult for them to focus. Instead, turn off the television and radio when you need to have a conversation with them, and speak to them as you would have before they had Alzheimer’s.

If You Must Give Them Instructions, Do It One Step at a Time

If you need to tell someone with Alzheimer’s to do something, give them their instructions one step at a time.

For instance, if you’re helping them get dressed, tell them to raise one leg and once that’s finished, tell them to raise the other. If you bombard them with several instructions at once, it can lead to severe frustration.

Give Them a Choice Instead of Asking Open-Ended Questions

Don’t come in and give them an unlimited number of choices. For example, if you’re helping them get dressed, don’t say, “What would you live to wear today?” Instead, ask, “Would you like to wear your pink or blue sweater today?”

This keeps things easier and allows them to communicate better. They still have a choice, but they aren’t overwhelmed.

Be Optimistic

Sometimes individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia become frightened or anxious if they notice that you’re frightened or anxious. This can especially be the case if they’ve suffered from PTSD in the past, and are coping with their trauma now that their defenses are down.

No matter what’s happening, try and remain positive when in their presence. This will keep them calm and make them feel more secure. This is especially the case if they’re having to move to a new environment where they’re feeling insecure or don’t know a lot of people.

Always Reassure Them in Alzheimer’s Communication

Many times, people with Alzheimer’s can feel unsure of themselves. Often, people with Alzheimer’s are aware of the fact that they don’t remember as much as they used to. They may even try and make up for it by hiding the fact that they’re unable to remember things because they’re embarrassed.

Reassure them that everything’s okay and that it’s okay if they can’t remember something. Let them know no one is judging them and they’re in a safe environment.

Loving Someone with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s communication can be very frustrating, and loving someone with Alzheimer’s can be discouraging and depressing. However, you don’t have to do it alone. At Seasons Memory Care, we’re here to help your loved one live as comfortably as possible and a supportive and safe environment.

If caring for a loved one by yourself or with an in-home aide has become too much, you may want to consider having your loved one live at a memory care facility. Contact us to discuss your situation and we can discuss the options available for you.