Communication with an Alzheimer’s Patient

It is a common symptom for an Alzheimer’s patient to get confused or forget words as the disease progresses. They may also speak less clearly in general. Understanding the needs of these patients can become challenging for caregivers as well as loved ones. The patient may also have difficulty interpreting the communication style of others. It is important to practice verbal and nonverbal techniques which take into consideration a patient’s unique circumstances; this can help break the communication barrier.

At the start of the conversation, identify yourself by name AND the loved one as well. This sort of to-the-point clarity can be soothing to Alzheimer’s patients as many experiences difficulty in identification of people as the disease progresses.

Always use a quiet and relaxing tone of voice when speaking to your loved one. Speak slowly and enunciate clearly. When asking a question, asking ONE question at a time, insuring to use the same wording if the patient asks you to repeat. Avoid references that may be confusing to the patient such as pronouns; avoid metaphors as well since the patient might interpret as literal.

It is important to approach an Alzheimer’s patient in a way that is non-threatening. This is a basic way to improve communication between you and the patient. Simply approaching the patient from the front rather than from behind removes uncertainty the patient may have regarding you and the general environment. Try to maintain calm and peaceful surroundings with a minimal amount of background distractions; this is to help avoid disorder or chaos. When speaking to your loved one, demonstrate sincerity by talking face to face, maintaining eye contact and using facial expressions to reflect the sentiment behind your conversation. Smiling, hugging or touching is EXCELLENT non-verbal communication that is gentle and should be well-received by the patient.

While visiting with the patient, be careful not to startle him or her; move about slowly and clearly explain what you are doing. Try to be sympathetic to what your loved one is trying to say to you through words and expressions.

Caregivers and loved ones of Alzheimer’s patients sometimes feel weighed down by the extreme personality and mood changes that are affecting the patient. Effectively dealing with these changes involves being instinctive and adjusting your own communication style to accommodate the changing needs of your loved ones.

Always remember that when speaking to an Alzheimer’s patient to speak clearly and concisely and be calm.

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