• Carrie Klaege

What to Say to Someone with Alzheimer's

It's indescribably painful to witness the deterioration of a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, or another type of dementia. As the disease progresses, we see minor forgetfulness morph into severe impairment, eventually causing communication to become a problem.

Mid-to-late stage Alzheimer's or dementia often presents challenging behavior problems. The anger, confusion, fear, paranoia, and sadness that people with the disease are experiencing can result in aggressive and sometimes violent actions. Knowing how to communicate and connect with our loved ones who suffer from forms of cognitive impairment is important as the disease progresses. Read below for some strategies to help you and your loved ones maintain a positive relationship, despite Alzheimer's or dementia.

In Order to Meaningfully Connect, You Have to Set the Mood

Here are some tips:

1. Avoid distractions. Create a comfortable ambiance that doesn't have a lot of stimuli so that your loved one can focus all of their mental energy on the conversation.

2. Be a good listener. Nod your head and interact with your loved one's conversation. if you don't understand something, politely ask open-ended questions.

3. Don't criticize. Be compassionate and do not try to correct your loved one if they are inaccurate. Feel free to go along with their delusions and misstatements to see where the conversation may take you.

4. Use a calm voice and warm tone. Don't be condescending and don't use heightened emotion. Speak clearly using a calm manner.

5. Use names. Avoid pronouns and refer to people by their names. Be sure to greet your love done with their name.

6. Use nonverbal cues. Keep eye contact and smile around your loved one. Maintaining an inviting demeanor will help your loved one stay at ease, and comfortable body language can help your loved one recognize that you are someone familiar, even if they don't recognize or remember exactly who you are.

The Alzheimer's Association provides the following do's and don't for effective communication:


* Accept the blame when something's wrong (even if it's a fantasy)

* Agree with them or distract them to a different subject or activity

* Allow plenty of time for comprehension...then triple it

* Avoid insistence - try again later

* Be cheerful, patient, and reassuring

* Eliminate "but" from your vocabulary, substitute "nevertheless"

* Give short, one sentence explanations

* Go with the flow

* Have patience

* Leave the room, if necessary, to avoid confrontations

* Practice 100% forgiveness

* Repeat instructions of sentences exactly the same way

* Respond to the feelings rather than the words

* Speak clearly and naturally


* Don't argue

* Don't confront

* Don't question recent memories

* Don't reason

* Don't remind them that they are forgetful

* Don't take it personally

It's important to remember what you are up against. Memory disorders continue to get worse with time, so your loved one will not improve; and you have to accept that.

Remember to Be Patient

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, and the brain is very complex. Your loved one will have both good and bad days, and you'll have to be patient. Knowing how to act around someone with Alzheimer's or how to help with Alzheimer's only goes to far.

Be kind and remember your loved one for their good times. Above all else, be loving and respectful, as they need you now more than ever.

Make sure to look out for yourself as well. Attend one of the Alzheimer's Association Chapter's Education Programs or a support group near you. (Alzheimer's Association Desert Southwest Chapter)

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