Communicating with Participants with Alzheimer’s
How can I communicate better with my patient who has Alzheimer’s?
Learning about Alzheimer’s, how it progresses and how it is managed is critical to understanding how best to interact and communicate with a person who has Alzheimer’s disease. In the process you will learn many tips and strategies for coping with the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of the disease. These symptoms will change as the disease progresses, and you may need to continually adapt strategies in accordance with your loved one’s level of function and symptomatic behaviors.
One successful approach to reducing inappropriate behaviors is to communicate within the affected person’s frame of reference. Consider how your loved one sees the world and interact with respect for that “reality.” It can also be helpful to engage the person in reminiscing about happier times by sharing memories and old photos; interactions that are focused on past times that the person might be able to recall may be less stressful than trying to communicate about current or recent events, which may not be accessible to the person.
What are some tips for communicating better?
Here are some other tips that might be useful in interacting with a person with Alzheimer’s:
What communication techniques work best?
A number of specific communication techniques have been shown to be effective in reducing problematic behaviors and improving day-to-day functioning of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias:
How do I deal with aggressive behavior?
In later stages of Alzheimer’s, aggressive or agitated behaviors may become common and may make it increasingly difficult to care for a loved one at home. Though generally viewed as symptoms of the disease itself, some experts believe that such behaviors may in part be reactions to the actions of people around them. For example, talking too loudly or too fast or contradicting the afflicted person’s perceived reality might cause agitation. A growing body of research is showing how certain techniques for communicating and interacting with a person who has Alzheimer’s can help reduce disruptive behaviors.
If your loved one is agitated or disruptive, examine how your own actions may be influencing that person’s behavior. Try to determine if something you have done (or have not done) might be triggering an agitated response and change that behavior in subsequent situations. Certain social situations, such as a holiday reunion of family with noise, kids, pets, etc., may trigger agitation. In such instances, it may be helpful to remove the person to a quiet area away from large groups of people until they calm down.
Alzheimer’s and dementia: Tips for better communication
Rethinking your listening and speaking strategies can help you communicate with a person who has dementia.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia can be challenging.
A family member or friend with dementia may have difficulty understanding you, and you may have a hard time understanding what he or she is trying to communicate. There’s potential for misunderstanding, confusion or frustration in both directions — making communication even more difficult.
You’ll need patience, good listening skills and new strategies. Here’s help easing your frustration and improving your communication.
What to expect
A person with dementia may have difficulty remembering words or communicating clearly. You might notice patterns in conversations, including:
What you can do to help
To improve understanding in both directions:
The challenges of communication evolve as the disease progresses. You will likely find that nonverbal communication with your family member or friend — such as touch or the comforting sound of your voice — will become not only important but also meaningful.
Source: Mayo clinic
Communicating with those with Dementia
Caregivers need to communicate differently with those with dementia at different stages of the disease. As the disease progresses, more skill is required to convey messages and establish mutual understanding. It is important to remain flexible and aware of how effective different techniques are in different situations. As dementia progresses from early to late stages, communication strategies, goals, and expectations need to change.
In the early stages, the goals of communication are to:
In some ways, these are relatively easy goals to achieve, because the main communication problem involves word finding.
In the middle stages, the goals of communication are to:
In the late stages, the goal of communication is to maintain communication by emphasizing non-verbal techniques.
Research on the best ways to communicate with care recipients who have dementia have identified four strategies that are effective:
These four strategies build on each other and are best used in combination.
The first way to show respect is to address the care recipient by her/his preferred name. The second way of showing respect is to use good manners such as saying “please” and “thank you.” The third way of showing respect is to invite the care recipient to participate in something rather than telling or demanding them to do it. The fourth way of showing respect is to give priority to the care recipient’s agenda over yours. Attend first to what the care recipient wants or needs before you attend to what you want.
Decrease environmental stress
Those with dementia can react very negatively to stress. For a person with dementia, even a small amount of stress can produce what is known of as a catastrophic reaction (serious emotional reactions characterized by emotional outbursts, agitation, and sometimes physical aggression).
The best strategies for decreasing environmental stress include:
Empathy and validation
The goal of this strategy is to affirm the feelings behind the message that the person with dementia is sending rather than focusing on the content of the message. The task for the caregiver is to carefully observe the emotions, behaviors, and environment of the care recipient, and then reflect back what the caregiver believes is going on.
Strategies for showing empathy and validation include:
Source: Communicating with those with Dementia – Alzheimer’s Research and Resource Foundation (ARARF)