Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Caregiver Wednesdays--Top Ten Tips for Speaking Alzheimer's

It's not it's own language, but there's a definite skill in being able to communicate with someone with Alzheimer's. It's not about the words so much as the spirit behind them.

Here are my top ten tips for speaking Alzheimer's

1. Don't try to reason with me. You will only frustrate both of us. (NOT: "Where is my car parked?" "Dad, you haven't had a car for years." INSTEAD: "Where is my car parked?" "I'm not sure where it is right now.")

2. Understand that my reality may be different from yours. I may be in a different time in my life, or a different place. Don't fight me on this, but enter my reality. (NOT: "I need to call my mother. She'll be worried about me." "Mom, you're in your 80's--your mother is long dead" INSTEAD: I need to call my mother. She'll be worried about me." "Tell me what your mother is like. Is she pretty?")

3. Being kind is a lot more important than being right. (NOT: "Someone stole my purse." "You're always losing things. It's probably here somewhere." INSTEAD "Someone stole my purse." "Really? Can I help you look in here first, and then we will report it?")

4. A gentle answer sometimes helps. (NOT: "She's got my pyjamas and she's going to steal them." She's just trying to put them away for the day!"INSTEAD:"She's got my pyjamas and she's going to steal them." "I'm here for you. Why don't we put them away together?")

5. Respect is key. ("What do you think I should do about this?")

6. Alzheimer's is a difficult language, and sometimes it's impossible to speak. There is a time for stepping away, and coming back in a few minutes. Chances are, the source of agitation will be forgotten.

7. There are times when distraction is possible. ("I want to go home." "We can do that after dinner, but everything is ready on the table, so maybe we should have that first.")

8. Meaningful activity is a great distraction. ("I want to go home." "I was wondering if you could help me fold these towels first?")

9. Sometimes I can't find the right words or all the words I need to say what I want to say. Listen carefully. If you can pick up a few words or a phrase, you can usually figure out what I want to say.

10. Don't get impatient with me. I will know it in an instant, and it will make me angry, or afraid anxious. It will not help me to communicate with you.


  1. Enjoyed reading your post. My husband's grandmother who had Alzheimer's lived with us for a brief period. It was a full time job caring for her. Before her disease hit, she always had a great sense of humor. Thankfully, when her memory began to fail and she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, her laughter never left. That was 20 years ago. She's gone now. But I sure wish there had been resources, like your blog, books and support groups back then, it really would have helped. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thank you so much for your comment, Beth. I'm always thrilled when someone I don't know indicates they are reading, because it means I am actually helping people. Please feel free to share if you know anyone else struggling.