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Strategies for Communicating
with Alzheimers Dementia Patients

Techniques for effective communication with the aging senior
with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Communicating with Alzheimers and Dementia patients will be challenging. Communication is an exchange of information in which we send and receive ideas, and express emotions. There are different levels of communication. We communicate verbally, though words and tone of voice and non- verbally through body language.

Techniques for effective communication reflect what we are trying to communicate to our aging loved with Alzheimer’s dementia.

As the aging senior progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s dementia, their communication skills erode. Alzheimer’s caregiver’s will need to investigate and try different communication techniques in order to communicate with the aging senior.

Stages of Alzheimer’s affect everyone differently. As Alzheimer dementia symptoms progress, the aging adult will present with different levels of change in their communication ability. This becomes a challenge for both the Alzheimer’s caregiver as well as with the aging Alzheimer’s dementia adult. The aging senior may have just as much trouble understanding what you are communicating, as you are having difficulty understanding them.

The levels and changes of communication change slowly over time as the levels of Alzheimer’s progresses.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia that you may begin to recognize:

  • Struggling to find the right word. You will see this in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Difficulty being able to express the correct word.
  • The aging senior struggles to organize the words in a logical order and may replace or make up words to replace the forgotten word.
  • They quickly are distracted and lose their train of thought.
  • They will repeat a word, phrase or question over and over again.
  • They require more time to process what you are saying to them.
  • They begin to use offensive language, even if they never spoke like that before.
  • They begin to have nonsensical conversations that you do not understand.
  • Over time, there are decreased attempts to speak and interact.

The most effective communication technique is to remain calm and relaxed. Being patient can be difficult as tempers can flair. This just creates frustration and anxiety and makes communication more difficult. Work at keeping your voice calm and your body relaxed. Your non-verbal cues will send a clearer message that the words you say.

A technique that is important is how you approach your loved one with Alzheimer’s dementia. Alzheimer caregiver’s should always approach the aging senior from the front. Take into consideration if they have sight or hearing problems. You do not want to startle them.

Maintaining eye contact and be supportive by remaining close and listen. It is important for the Alzheimer caregiver to reassure the aging adult with Alzheimer’s dementia that you are trying to understand.

It is appropriate to encourage and assist the aging senior to focus on words. Cueing a word or phrase can be a technique that is effective in assisting communications.

Alzheimer caregiver’s should consider props or visuals to assist in recognition. Remember the Alzheimer brain is slowly shrinking. Utilize pictures or sit the aging adult at a table with food, before asking if they are hungry or not.

The Alzheimer’s caregiver must remain positive. Do not argue, just agree. As reasoning and judgment declines over time, it is more important to maintain calm and avoid a situation that can increase anger and agitation. A technique for effective communication is to consistently word things from a positive perspective. It is important to understand the Alzheimer’s dementia adult does not process the way we process things. For example, instead of saying “Don’t go out that door”, learn to rephrase and say “Let’s go here”. The Alzheimer caregiver needs to understand the Alzheimer dementia adult does not have the ability to turn a negative thought around.

As the stages Alzheimer dementia progresses, it will become more important to repeat a phrase or word, slowly and calmly. You may have to repeat something ten times or more, in as many minutes because the Alzheimer dementia adult cannot remember what you have already told them. Each time you repeat something is like receiving new information to them.

The Alzheimer caregiver role is difficult. You must remember that your loved one is not acting this way intentionally. It is Alzheimer’s disease, not your loved responding.

As symptoms of Alzheimer’s progress, increased sensitivity to noise and difficulty to concentrate requires an environment with minimal background noise. Even lowering the ring tone on the phone will avoid an unnecessary distraction.

Communicating with Alzheimer’s dementia patients can be challenging for any caregiver. Providing consistency in a loving and caring environment, regardless of how difficult the communication becomes, will allow you moments of successful connection. There will be moments when your loved one comes out of the fog, even ever so briefly and shows glimpses of the person you once knew. Those are the moments every Alzheimer caregiver strives for and gives them the strength to take on another day.

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