Conversations with Alzheimer’s Sufferers: Helpful Hints

Talking to someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s can be an exhausting and frustrating task for both sides.

There’s often a sense of guilt in the early days that prevents the sufferer’s loved ones from adapting their communication style. You feel you have to talk to them the same way you always have. But that approach is at the heart of the frustration.

Some helpful tips include:

Boil Your Point Down

To help them understand you, make your point quickly and simply. Don’t overcomplicate what you say. Try to avoid long words. Anything long-winded or complicated will be rejected. Even in the early stages, many sufferers would rather just say ‘no’ if they can’t understand.

Slow Down Your Speech

By a certain point, sufferers can forget what you’re saying almost immediately. Speaking more slowly gives them time to absorb each word; they can hold them for longer. Speaking too fast will become confusing quickly.

“Why are you talking so fast? What are you talking about? Don’t try to boss me about.” Sometimes the sufferer will actually say this, but they’re sure to think it if you’re not careful.

Listen

This is a skill more of us need to develop anyway! As a sufferer gets more muddled over time, the tone of voice they say things in becomes more important than the words they use. Their expression will tell you more. Remember, they won’t be trying to trick you – the cues you can pick up from face and tone are going to be genuine.

Look and Smile

Eye contact before you start talking helps the sufferer to focus on you and prepare for what’s coming.

More important, however, is to always smile. The best thing you can do for your loved one’s mood is to show that yours is good. That helps their own mood lift – and that’s an important step in helping them.

Be Their Loved One

Act as their friend. Gestures like standing up and holding out your hand can often work better than asking them to go somewhere, especially if you need them to do something they might not want to.

Your loved one should remember at least that they know, love, and trust you. By saying only what you need to and acting (and being!) their friend, you can guide them through what they need with less resistance. After all, you’re not bossing them about.