Caregiver Tips: 8 Tips for communicating effectively with a senior with Alzheimer’s disease.

8 Steps to better communication with the confused senior:

• Talk slow – people need time to process and understand words. People with Alzheimer’s disease need even more time.
• Make sure you have the person’s attention, make eye contact. This means if the person is in a wheelchair, stoop down or sit down to talk to them at their level – eye level. Standing over someone and talking down to them can be intimidating, or it might make the person think you are speaking to someone else.
• Give one direction at a time. People with Alzheimer’s disease can’t remember several things at a time.
• Use concrete names. Say” please put the plate over here” – don’t say “put it over here” using “it” for plate. Use a person’s name instead of he or she and add the person’s relationship. Instead of “he is parking the car” say “Bob your brother, is parking the car.”
• Remember “please” and “thank yous”. People with Alzheimer’s disease retain courtesy late in the disease process. I have seen people with no language skills left, yet still able to walk. If they bump into you will say “sorry” or “excuse me”, even though they can say nothing else.
• Keep it simple. Don’t use a lot of words when few will do. It might be your way to talk a lot, and the sound of the human voice can be very soothing. But not if the words are expecting something from the person unable to understand and so cause frustration. But informative conversation about the family, the weather, food, anything that doesn’t include questions and require answers, will be positive.
• Don’t argue. In fact if there is a misunderstanding apologize before emotions escalate. If you don’t understand what the person wants or is trying to communicate simply say “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
• When things go wrong or mistakes are made, laugh it off. Not in a way where the person might think they are being laughed at – but rather in a way that says, we all make mistakes – this isn’t a big deal.

Let Go – Let God. Keep in mind the big picture see (Let Go Let God) the last chapter of my book Please Get To Know Me – Aging with Dignity and Relevance.

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