BEFORE TALKING WITH SOMEONE WITH DEMENTIA OR ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE:
Know the older adult first! (know their likes, dislikes and names – the name they like to be called).
If you are a caregiver, read their chart or history. Are they a morning person or are they up at night? Know as much about them as you possibly can.
Think about how you are presenting yourself
Try a CALM, gentle, matter of fact approach
Use a non-demanding approach – try humor, cheerfulness
Try using a gentle touch, from the front (if appropriate) to communicate your message
Begin the conversation socially (i.e., “Hi, my name is Michelle”). Use your name often and wear a nametag, if possible.
WHILE TALKING WITH SOMEONE WITH DEMENTIA OR ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Approach from the front and talk to the person in a place with no distractions. It may sound obvious, but make sure hearing aids are turned on and have batteries.
Begin by identifying yourself and addressing the person by the “best” name
Look directly at the person and make sure you have his/her attention
Make sure you are at eye level with the person (not looking down). Get at their level.
Speak slowly and say words clearly and in a soft low pitch voice – gentle tone
Ask only one thing at a time and do not rush
Use short, simple sentences and questions (e.g., “are you cold?”)
Use very concrete terms and familiar words
Use actual names, instead of he and she, when referring to others
Talk in a warm, easy-going, pleasant way
Talk in a quiet, calm voice.
Speak in positive terms
Ignore harmless hallucinations or delusions
Treat the person with RESPECT
WHEN YOU ARE HAVING TROUBLE BEING UNDERSTOOD
Be patient; allow enough time
Demonstrate visually what you are saying by pointing, touching or drawing
Use short simple terms
Be repetitive and consistent (if you need to repeat 3 times)
Try a less difficult, more simple way to say it
Try a hug and a change of subject
Do not rush the person. Allow plenty of time for a response. If there is none, repeat the question, exactly as it was phrased the first time. If there still is no answer, reword the phrase.
If possible, change who is asking the question or making the request. Someone else may have more success.
WHEN YOU ARE HAVING TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING
Listen actively and carefully to what the person is trying to say
Try to focus on a word or phrase that makes sense
Respond to the emotional tone of the statement
Experiment with supplying words
Encourage the person to point or gesture
Stay calm and be patient
Ask family members about possible meanings for words, names, phrases
Listen to their voice and gestures which may give clues to understanding
THINGS NOT TO DO
Don’t argue and don’t give orders to the person.
Don’t tell the person what he/she can’t do.
Don’t “talk down” or appear superior to the person.
Don’t treat them like a child.
Don’t ask questions that require the person to remember facts.
Don’t talk about people with the disease in front of them.
Don’t use sarcasm or inappropriate humor. Alzheimer’s patients misinterpret humor.
Don’t orient the person to person, place and time – validate their feelings and statements.
WHEN VERBAL COMMUNICATION JUST DOESN’T WORK
Try distracting the person.
Ignore angry or agitated statements if you can’t think of a positive response.
Try other forms of communicating (songs, massage, favorite foods, walking, etc.)
Give the person something to do. Try activities, a walk, giving them food or something to hold.
Again, try someone else. The Alzheimer or Dementia patient may just not like what you are wearing that day.
Try again later.
COPING WITH CHALLENGING BEHAVIORS
Build a positive, trusting relationship. You are familiar, you are safe.
Use effective verbal and nonverbal communication techniques.
Encourage independence in the person. Try to help the resident build a sense of control and competence over his/her life.
Avoid arguing, yes/no battles, rational or logical explanations, and debates.
Tell “therapeutic fibs” or “bent facts” to save a patient grief and reduce problem behaviors (i.e., validation therapy). Validate their hallucinations or delusions.
Redirect or divert the person’s attention to a positive topic, activity, or object.
When a behavior requires intervention, act quickly with positive techniques and activities.