Tag Archives: communication

Communication Tips

       Communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s disease who has language difficulties, requires lots of patience, understanding, skill and creativity.  One of the keys in communicating effectively is eliminating background noise such as TV or radio or other distractions. Sometimes this is not possible, but it might be possible to move to a less distracting area before you start talking. It is always a good start to get the person’s attention by using eye contact, therefore having a conversation when you are in another room will not get favorable results.

       Here are a few other points to consider:

  • speak slowly and clearly
  • pay attention to see if they understood you before going on
  • repeat important information, but keep it simple
  • show and talk, give a visual clue
  • allow time for them to respond

       Be aware of your body language as well as tone of voice and facial expressions. It is easier on everyone when you can join the Alzheimer patient in their reality rather than argue with them.  The story of Rose is a good example.  Rose was a very sweet lady but at dinner time she often  became upset because she thought she had to sing later and she couldn’t remember the music. The staff often told her she didn’t have to sing, but Rose still couldn’t let it go until one day they told her they already booked someone else to perform.  That creative response calmed Rose down. We learned later that Rose was an accomplished soloist in her day and often performed for the troops during the war.

       The quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease depends largely  on the interactions  with others who care for them. Understanding how to deal with communication issues helps  to lessen the frustration for everyone.



       Alzheimer’s disease and dementia usually progresses to the point where language skills are impacted.  This may include difficulty in finding the correct words and following the thread of conversations. There may even be times when the person is in the middle of a sentence and forgets what they were talking about.  Outside distractions may be harder to tune out as well, particularly if the conversation is happening in a large or noisy room.  The attention span becomes shorter. There will also be signs that  the person may not comprehend what is being said to them because they have lost the ability to make connections. I recall an instance when my mother and I were visiting dad in the ICU unit at the hospital and we explained the No Scent rule to mom as, don’t wear your perfume.  The next day however she wore dad’s after shave lotion, not making the connection that they are similar.

       The loss of verbal communication makes people rely more on non-verbal signs. Being aware of this can help the affected person feel less isolated and less misunderstood as well as lessening the frustration level for both parties. A communications study has found that 93% of all communication is actually non-verbal, which surprised me. We don’t often think of tone and pitch of voice as well as body language to be as important as it is. However these become increasingly more important when dealing with someone who is struggling with their language skills due to memory loss.

      Stay tuned for some communication tips next time.