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Health & Wellness

Communicating With Your Loved One Who Has Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease affects a person’s ability to communicate. Your loved one may have difficulty making himself understood and understanding what other people are saying.

How can I help my loved one communicate?

  • Use good listening skills. Keep eye contact and use touch to reassure and show you are listening.
  • Show your interest in what he says and feels.
  • Pay attention to his voice and gestures to better understand his feelings.
  • Keep in mind that emotions are sometimes more important than what is being said.
  • If you don’t understand what your loved one is trying to say, ask him to point or gesture.
  • If he is having difficulty finding the right word, offer a guess.
  • If your loved one uses the wrong word and you know what is meant, go ahead and supply the correct word. If this upsets him, do not correct him in the future.
  • If your loved one is upset, but unable to explain it verbally, give comfort and reassurance. Your loved one may become more upset if you pressure him to explain.

How can I help my loved one to understand?

  • Make sure your loved one is able to hear you.
  • Approach him from the front so you do not startle him.
  • Make sure confusion, distraction and noise are at a minimum.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Using a lower pitch voice will help to convey a sense of calm.
  • Use short, simple, familiar words and sentences.
  • Be aware of your tone of voice. Your loved one can sense your emotions through your tone.
  • Ask only one question at a time and give your loved one time to respond.
  • Speak positively by avoiding “don’ts” and avoiding direct orders.
  • You may find it helpful to communicate your request by drawing, pointing, or touching things.
  • Ignore harmless hallucinations or delusions. Respond with reassurance rather than confrontation. You may find it helpful to redirect your loved one to another activity.
  • If you sense your loved one is not paying attention, try to talk to him again in a few minutes.
  • Use non-verbal communication (such as a smile, touch or hug). Non-verbal communication serves to reinforce verbal communication or to communicate when your loved one can no longer understand words.