Tips for Communicating with a Person Who has Alzheimer’s Disease | BrightFocus Foundation: Tips for Communicating with a Person Who has Alzheimer’s Disease
Kathleen Allen, LCSW, C-ASWCM
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Senior couple talking to each other
Learn helpful communication tips for visiting someone with dementia, or communicating with them by phone or video chat.
Have you ever tried to communicate with someone with Alzheimer’s disease and ended feeling awkward and frustrated? Did you get stuck without having anything to talk about? Was this a once conversant and articulate person you now have difficulty engaging?
Communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease, though challenging, is achievable. But because the disease affects the brain in ways that make communication difficult, we need to keep in mind some guidelines to facilitate the best possible communication. Below I will address communication when you are visiting someone with dementia, and then I will address non-visit communication, such as by phone or video chat.
On Your Visit
Christi Clark and Carrie Idol-Richards of the Insight Memory Care Center in Fairfax, Virginia refer to the “Basic 6” steps for communicating with someone with dementia. The steps they describe provide an excellent framework to use on your visits as you approach and converse with someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, and are especially relevant during the middle stages of the disease.
Approach from the front – do not startle them.
Establish eye contact – this shows interest in them.
Call the person by name – again, showing interest in them.
Get down to eye level if needed – this puts you on the same level with them.
Let them initiate touch – they will come to you when ready.
Give directions one step at a time – helps keep it simple, especially for those having difficulty with processing.