Communicating with a person who has
Alzheimer's disease or another
dementia can be very challenging. Changing your
approach to the way you communicate may be helpful.
First, make sure the person does not have a
hearing or vision problem. Sometimes a person may not respond to you because he
or she cannot hear you. Not being able to see well may make the person more
confused, agitated, or withdrawn. If you suspect a problem, have a health
professional evaluate the person's hearing and vision.
Offer reassurance, and try to distract the person or focus his or her attention
on something else.
Use short, simple, familiar words and sentences.
Present only one idea at a time. And avoid talking about abstract
Explain your actions. Break tasks and instructions into
clear, simple steps, offered one step at a time.
Pay attention to
your tone of voice. Be calm and supportive. A person with dementia is still
aware of emotions and may become upset upon sensing anger or irritation in your
Maintain eye contact and use touch to reassure and show that
you are listening. Touch may be better understood than words. Holding the
person's hand or putting an arm around his or her shoulder may get through when
nothing else can.
Pay attention to the person's tone of voice and
gestures for clues as to what the person is feeling. Sometimes the emotion is
more important than what is said.
Do not confront the person about
his or her denial of the disease. Arguments will not help either of
Continue to treat the person with dignity and
Allow choices in daily activities. Let the person select
his or her clothing, activities, and foods. But too many choices can be
overwhelming. Offer a choice of 2 to 3 options, not the whole range of
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How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.