Do’s And Don’ts: Communicating With Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s Or Dementia

Communication, of course, is the most important part of any human interaction. But when you’re trying to communicate with someone who has dementia or Alzheimer’s, it can be a frustrating process – for both of you. But especially for the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s, because they may be unable to effectively express themselves. The result can be extreme agitation on their part…or even lashing out.

Here are some “do’s” to increase communication, and decrease agitation…

  • People with dementia are easily startled. So approach from the front.
  • Always maintain eye contact.
  • Keep your voice soft, and pleasant.
  • Smile!
  • Speak slowly and calmly.
  • Be prepared to identify yourself.
  • Short, simple sentences.
  • One question at a time. Don’t overwhelm them.
  • Try to eliminate background noise, if possible.
  • If you’re asking a question, wait patiently for the answer.
  • If he or she can’t find the word…help them out by finishing the thought.
  • Be prepared to repeat. Repeat. And repeat.
  • Nothing helps a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s as much as praise. Don’t hold back with the “Good job!” or “Thank you!”
  • Give them a choice whenever possible. It’s empowering. And it’s calming.
  • Their feelings are important to them. Acknowledge what they’re feeling.
  • Soft touches on the shoulder or knee can get a good response.
  • Hugs can get a great response!
  • Laugh. Together.

And here are a few “don’ts”…

  • Don’t argue. Ever.
  • If you’re getting angry or frustrated…STOP! You can try again later.
  • Don’t be sarcastic. And don’t – ever – talk down to the Alzheimer’s or dementia patient.
  • Don’t correct them. As far as you’re concerned…they’re never wrong.
  • Never demand. Request.
  • Speak slowly. Hurrying will only increase their frustration…and yours.
  • Always remember: It’s not personal.

At The Law Offices of Alice Reiter Feld & Associates, working with families dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia is one of our chief practice areas. In fact, we have one of the most comprehensive Alzheimer’s/dementia libraries in South Florida. And over the past 33 years, we’ve walked thousands of families through this journey. Listening to their questions. Advising them on their rights. And providing a shoulder when necessary.

If your family’s dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia – or if you need help with estate planning, wills, trusts, protecting assets, powers or attorney, long-term-care planning, or dealing with the VA or Medicaid – we’re just a phone call away.

And we’ll always be there for you.

Posted in Alice Reiter Feld Florida Elder Law Monday Memos
6 comments on “Do’s And Don’ts: Communicating With Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s Or Dementia
  1. Todd Hollfelder says:

    Somehow I ran across you today and you may be exactly the assistance I’m looking for! I’m dealing with a retired military officer who had a stroke in 2007 and has been dealing with dementia ever since. He’s also a recent amputee (Peripheral Artery Disease, Sept. 2011) and more recently a cancer diagnosis. He’s decided he’d rather die than undergo radiation so, for the past month, we’ve been dealing with home hospice care! His exact condition is unknown at this time. The progression of the cancer is unknown at this time. He won’t co-operate with feedings via “peg” tube, won’t take his medications (except pain) and we’re just trying to keep him comfortable. There’s a lot to this story! Contact me if you think you can be of assistance!

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